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Can your sprained ankle cause back or neck problems?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

An ankle sprain has a recovery time that ranges from three months to a year. Ligaments heal slowly and the tissue surrounding them must be strengthened in order to regain complete functionality. But what is often ignored is the effect of the unstable ankle on the rest of the body. Understanding how fascial lines work is essential in understanding how other areas of the body might be affected over time and to unwind complicated compensation patterns from injuries. Long-standing aggravations to the knees, hips, lower back, and neck can be traced to dysfunctional movement patterns created by an ankle sprain.

Almost all ankle sprains are caused by a twisting of the foot which overstretches and tears the ligaments around the lateral malleolus (inversion sprain). What happens next is very interesting. It becomes very difficult to put weight on the outside of the foot because that causes pain. The foot then tends to be more comfortable in eversion, placing more weight on the inside of the foot. This causes the lower body to lean to the opposite side. What muscles must engage to make that happen? The evertors of the foot, adductors and abductors of the hip, the quadratus lumborum and obliques on the opposite side, and the neck flexors (upper body leaning to counterbalance lower body). This will cause strain to the medial portion of the same knee, to the lateral portion of the opposite knee (ITB syndrome).

Clearly the dysfunctions along the whole body must be addressed. Neck problems of many years can be traced back to an ankle sprain. Changes in gait resulting from such a sprain can cause knee, hip, and lower back injuries.

Having an holistic and global approach to injury is a very crucial aspect of successful rehabilitation. Treating injuries locally can only lead to further dysfunction. Understanding how an injury can affect an entire fascial line is the key to unraveling the mysteries of chronic pain.

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