Are you having pain with walking, running, or jumping? Do you feel unsteady with walking or single-leg activities? Do you roll your ankles often? You’re not alone. Ankle pain and injuries are very common, especially in sports that include running and jumping. Our ankles are first to respond when we have to balance. Any strength or mobility deficits here can have a big impact on how we move and stabilize ourselves. At Symmetry Physical Therapy, we specialize in assessing the cause of your ankle pain and creating a treatment plan. This allows you to get back to what you love faster. Click here to schedule an appointment with us at our clinic located in Downtown Miami/Brickell! Keep reading below to find out what your experience will be with us.
What is Causing My Ankle Pain?
Your physical therapist will spend the first day performing an initial evaluation to determine the cause of your ankle pain. When assessing ankle pain, it is important to know what the diagnosis is as well as how you present as a patient. The first step is a thorough history of your ankles. Your PT will ask about any previous injuries, surgeries, or medical conditions. They will then ask about aggravating activities, your lifestyle, and activity level. Come prepared to answer questions such as:
- How did the pain start?
- How long and how often have I been experiencing pain?
- What makes the pain better/worse?
- Where do I feel the pain?
- Do I notice any swelling?
- Do I experience numbness and tingling?
- What time of day is my pain better/worse?
Next, your therapist will perform movement and mobility assessments, strength testing, postural analysis, and special tests. These will determine structures that may be involved in causing your ankle pain symptoms. Your therapist will observe any activity that is important to you to perform. These include sitting, walking, standing, and other forms of mobility. By observing your different postures in these positions, your therapist can determine what muscles you over or underuse. They can then assess further.
Your therapist will also test your ability to hold positions as well to determine how strong these muscles are and if there are any muscular imbalances. Muscle imbalances can present as one leg or side of the trunk being weaker than the other or that one muscle is tight and the opposite muscle is weak. Core strength deficits can lead to impaired balance which can affect your ankle stability. Your physical therapist will take you through strengthening and balance exercises that are appropriate for your level. Your therapist will also test the range of motion of your ankle to see if there are any limitations and determine if it’s due to changes in the joint or muscle tightness.
What are some common ankle pain conditions that you treat?
There are many different diagnoses related to ankle pain. Four of the most common diagnoses for ankle pain are sprained ankles, ankle impingement, ankle fractures, and chronic ankle instability. For all these conditions, surgery is normally not required and symptoms can be fully managed with physical therapy.
Physical Therapy for Sprained Ankles
Ankle sprains can occur when you roll or twist your ankle in an awkward way that causes tearing or overstretching of the ligaments in the ankle. You may experience symptoms such as bruising, swelling, and difficulty putting weight on the foot. Your physical therapist will assess your range of motion of your ankle and can determine the site of sprain after performing special tests. Exercises will include various hip and core strengthening exercises to help improve overall stability as well as balance exercises to help ease these symptoms. Your therapist will also teach you pain management techniques to help reduce swelling.
Physical Therapy for Ankle Impingement
An ankle impingement occurs when soft or bony tissue is being compressed in the ankle with a forced end range position. There are two different types based on the location where the pain is felt. You may have an anterior ankle impingement if you feel pain in the front of the ankle when the ankle is in an end range position like with jumping, squatting and going down stairs. Its possible you have a posterior ankle impingement if you have pain in the back of the ankle when you point your toes.
You might notice a sensation of ankle instability, tenderness when touching the painful area, and loss of range of motion of the ankle. Your therapist will assess the cause of the impingement which could be related to the mechanics of your foot/ankle and lower extremities. They will perform soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization as necessary to improve the mobility of your ankle and reduce the pinching sensation. Your therapist will also teach you foot and ankle strengthening exercises as well as other exercises personalized to you to improve your ability to walk, run, or whatever activity you need to do.
Physical Therapy for Ankle Fractures
Ankle fractures can occur when the ankle is forcefully twisted or rolled or there is direct trauma to the ankle causing the bones to break. You will experience pain, and swelling as well as difficulty walking and putting weight on the foot. Your doctor will determine what type of immobilization is necessary and once the fracture is healed, you can be cleared to start physical therapy! You may begin to develop more stiffness and pain in the ankle from not being able to move it like normal. Your physical therapist will help address any strength and mobility deficits in the ankle. They will improve your ability to walk and balance with personalized core and leg strengthening exercises. Balance exercises can be with both or one foot. These can include standing on uneven surfaces, or having to maintain your position while moving your body in different ways.
Physical Therapy for Chronic Ankle Instability
If you’ve sprained your ankle(s) many times and feel unstable with walking, you might have chronic ankle instability. You may experience pain with walking as well as single-leg activities like running where balance is very important. Your physical therapist will determine the cause of your ankle pain with special tests. Then they will teach you ankle strengthening and balance exercises to help improve your stability on one leg. Your therapist may also give you core and hip strengthening exercises. These have a big impact on your balance and ability to walk properly as well. Click here to schedule an appointment with us to find out more about how to manage your ankle pain!