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Q

I initially sprained my ankle as a teenager and have sprained it many times since. I seem to sprain it so easily now and have to be very careful how I step to avoid injuring my ankle. My doctor recommended physical therapy to help my ankle. How will physical therapy help?

 
A

When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments and soft tissues are stretched beyond their normal limits. This leads to pain, swelling and difficulty walking for several days, but there is also injury to the joint proprioceptors. These proprioceptors send a message to your brain to tell you where your body is in space. We know about other senses such as taste hearing and smell, but we also have a position sense – knowing where your body is in space. For instance, close your eyes and use your senses to feel where your foot is. Proprioception is the body’s ability to react appropriately to your position sense. How does this apply to your ankle? Your foot and ankle need to adjust to uneven surfaces such as walking on gravel or a grassy, bumpy yard. When a joint is injured, the sense of position is injured and your brain does not receive the appropriate message to avoid injury. This can lead to problems with balance and coordination, which can cause recurrent ankle sprains. Physical therapy can retrain the joint proprioceptors by using specific exercises and activities that challenge the balance and reaction time of the injured joint. This rehabilitation will help to strengthen you ankle, improve proprioception and reduce the risk of recurrence. You can see a physical therapist without a physicians referral in Oregon and most insurance companies cover this service.

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617 Hickory St. NW, Suite 160
ALbany, OR • Phone 541.928.1411