Recurrent Injury is no Accident

“I Just Have Weak Ankles”

“I just have weak ankles. I think I was born that way.” If I had a loonie for every time I’ve heard that statement I could go out for a really nice dinner. I would choose a trendy gastropub-like restaurant, invite everyone who has ever made this statement to join me, and sit them down to explain why no one should put up with recurrent injury – over a nice glass of Cabernet of course.

Let’s look at it this way. If the same tire on your car kept wearing out and all the mechanic ever did was replace it only to have it wear out again, would you just shrug and say “well I guess they’re just weak tires”? I think not. I’m thinking maybe you would blast the mechanic with a bad Google review and then go find someone who could actually find the true source of the problem, which is most likely an alignment or stability issue with some other part of your car.

Alignment is the Key

Well your body isn’t any different. Just because the same part is always causing you problems, it doesn’t mean the actual problem lives there. It simply means that the particular body part in question happens to be what is paying the price, just like the poor tire. The poor maligned ankles are just paying for misalignment up higher.

In the case of recurrent ankle sprains, the alignment and stability issue is usually at the hip. When we turn an ankle we are essentially falling off of the foot. We lose our balance and our body falls (most often to the outside) and the ankle is just what gets twisted as we go down. I can honestly tell you that I have never seen anyone who has sprained an ankle who doesn’t have alignment and stability issues at the hip.

“Accidents” Happen for a Reason

“But I stepped on an uneven surface so I didn’t stand a chance” you say? Well in extreme cases that may be true, such as jumping up really high and landing on someone else’s foot during a basketball game. But in general if our balance systems are functioning properly we can quickly compensate for an uneven surface.

The hip is an essential part of this balance system. Because the muscles around the hip are big and very strong, they can make large corrective efforts to help you keep your balance and thus not roll off of your foot. The issue is, if the hip is out of alignment these big strong muscles can’t work as effectively. This impacts the balance reactions the hip can produce, and down you go cursing your weak ankles again.

Well How’d I get Messed Up in the First Place?

The next logical question is why you might have an alignment problem with your hips in the first place. Alignment issues can occur for many reasons, but the most common is trauma. When I say “trauma” most people think I am referring to some spectacular head over heels fall or major car accident, but trauma basically is anything my kids would refer to as a “boo-boo”. Well okay, with the exception of imaginary boo-boos just because we want a band-aid with whatever the latest character is on it.

Trauma can be bumping into a door frame. It can be slipping on ice and falling even if you didn’t beak anything. It can be slipping and not falling but producing a huge muscular response to save yourself. It can be getting hit with a soccer ball. And yes moms, birthing babies is a trauma particularly to the hips and pelvis. Basically if it caused you to make a face and say “ouch” (or something more colourful if the kids aren’t around) then it is trauma.

Any of these sorts of traumas can produce problems with alignment as the muscles get out of balance with each other. Misalignment effects balance and stability and some other poor body part ends up taking the blame. So let’s stop blaming the poor victim and get some physiotherapy treatment aimed at the actual culprit.

Address the Problem not the Symptoms

If you have had recurrent injury to some part of your body, then you need to have someone address the true cause of the problem and not just change your tire. People are not generally born with weak ankles or knees or whatever other body part. Address the alignment and stability issues elsewhere and I’m sure your poor body part will be happy because no one likes being blamed for something they had nothing to do with. Did I mention it wasn’t me who finished the ice cream?


For more about our treatment philosophy feel free to browse these blog posts and give us a call if you think our philosophy aligns with yours.

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