What is chronic ankle instability?
Chronic ankle instability is when the ankle often “gives”, causing the foot to roll outward. Typically, this instability occurs when running or walking especially on uneven terrain, though it can also occur standing still.
What causes chronic ankle instability?
The outter ankle has fewer ligaments than the inner ankle which means its naturally weaker and more prone to injury. Ankle instability typically develops in people that have had a history of recurrring ankle sprains that have not fully or correctly healed.
Ankle instability can either be directly related to weakness in the ligaments and muscles supporting the outter ankle, or it can be neuromotor related which is more about your bodys ability to control what your ankle is doing. Often both of these occur simultaneously, fortunately orthotics can treat them both.
How can orthotics help?
Chronic ankle instability might not seem like a condition that can be effectively treated by orthotics, but a number of studies have proven it to be very effective. Recent studies suggest that orthotics can be effective in treating both muscular and neural ankle instability.
When you have sprained your ankle, two things need to happen; first, the ligaments and muscles need to heal. This can often be achieved through rest, applying ice, compression and elevation but orthotics are also useful while the injury is healing.
The way orthotics can treat muscular problems is fairly straightforward: in this instance by placing a wedge to support the outer heel, the ankle can not roll outward. This takes some pressure off the injured tissue and allows the muscles and ligaments to heal. This can also help to prevent new sprains.
To treat chronic ankle instability, you also need to retrain your muscles and ligaments to properly distribute weight for balance. People with neuro-motor problems often have trouble balancing when they stand on one foot.
The way orthotics can treat neuromotor problems is by incresing your foots contact with the ground. The bottom of your foot has many sensors which help tell your brain what your foot is doing, for example how to balance on un-even terrain. Often these sensors are not working optimally as they are not making full contact with the ground, so the message back to the brain is not as efficient. By moulding a formthotic to the sole of the foot all of these sensors are fully activated which improves the ability of these receptors to recognize balance in turn preventing ankle sprains.