The ankle is comprised of 3 separate joints and is arguably the most important joint in the lower limb. Injury can leave ankles painful and stiff, or symptoms may develop gradually without any obvious cause.
Ankle sprains are common and generally occur when someone ‘rolls’ on their ankle damaging ligaments in the region. These can vary from a simple strain to a complete tear of the ligament. Most ankle sprains heal and settle down quickly but, in some cases, pain and disability linger for several months. There are a number of causes of what is termed ‘difficult ankle’ syndrome including synovitis (joint inflammation) which can develop if you force full weight-bearing too early after a sprain.
Functional instability of the ankle can happen if there has been repeated ankle sprains or if the ankle doesn’t heal effectively after a severe sprain. This can be due a combination of the ligaments being slack (‘stretched out’) and the muscles around the particular joint failing to support it adequately. Over-pronation or over-supination can be responsible for delaying or preventing complete healing, therefore foot orthoses may be needed to stabilise the ankle during rehabilitation to enable complete recovery.