It is Andrew from Waikato Podiatry here, and I have come to talk to you about recurrent ankle sprains. I recently read an article about this subject and it found that 10% of people that have ankle sprains do no proprioceptive rehabilitation, following their ankle sprain.
What is Proprioception?
Proprioception is one of the key factors to help you prevent reinjury of your ankle. What we will discuss here is the importance of proprioception, what it is, how it affects you and what you can do to improve it. There are lots of things to consider, such as your sporting background, your age, but regardless of this, everyone needs to have good proprioception. Proprioception is essentially a combination of feedback that you get from your body to tell you where different limbs are, or where your body is in space.
For example, if I closed my eyes and someone moved my hand, I would be able to tell my hand had moved, and how fast it had moved. I can tell this because I have different mechanoreceptors, and different proprioceptors in my ligaments, joints, skin, muscle and tendons.
Why is Proprioception important?
In a functional setting, proprioception of your ankle is one of the most important facets of overall body balance. In fact, 50% of anterior, posterior and side to side sway is attributable to the proprioception that you develop and that you have through your ankle. So, when you have sprained your ankle, you must get the rehabilitation that you need and the proprioception that is needed to recover fully. After an ankle sprain, the feedback from our sensitive receptors and proprioception gets damaged, so it needs to be retrained, and movements need to be relearned. This will enable your ankle to get better and better at that immediate reaction, almost like it is not a conscious thing and like a reflex.
How Can I Improve My Proprioception?
We know proprioception is really important for injury prevention, but it can also be an accurate predictor of sports function. It stands to reason that the better your balance and the better your proprioception, the more accurate you can be with sports.
There are a couple of different ways you can improve your proprioception. One really easy way is to stand with your eyes shut and balance on one foot, and then swap over to the other foot, without losing your balance. To increase the difficulty, you could use a wobble board, this is an artificial instability surface. It is really important to do it with your eyes closed, because that taps into more of the mechanisms and receptors within the body, otherwise, you tend to rely on the feedback you are getting from your eyes.
The other thing is an ACC sponsored app available to all New Zealanders, of all ages, called Nimble. This app will guide you through a whole lot of different balancing exercises along with balance.
If you would like a hand with improving your proprioception, please call into the clinic!