Friday, 22 July 2011

Ankles

Cherie wrote about feet a while back, which reminded me of some thoughts on ankles. I hope she wasn't intending to move on to ankles...

When I first injured an ankle a decade ago I shrugged it off: OK, so I'm limping but I'll ice it, and it'll get better. Well yes, it will get better, but unless you habitually walk on your hands, ankles are in a different league to sprained wrists. & an injured ankle will heal but is much more susceptible to re-injury.

& there's a further problem. We think of balance as the effect of that liquid-filled chamber behind the ear, but it's not so simple. For a start, there's a strong visual component to balance as you'll have noticed if you've tried standing on one foot with your eyes closed. Part of our fear of darkness must be uncertainty of balance. If you go to a tango class where balance is practised by standing on one foot, you can have good balance by focusing your eyes on one spot without blinking; of course, that doesn't help when you have to move. & there's a third component to balance, and that's from the knees down. The eyes and the balance organ are sensors, but the actual work is done by a co-ordinated group of nerves and the muscles below the knees. Any lower-body injury can upset this co-ordination, which will need to be rebuilt.

With hindsight, with an ankle injury that didn't clear up fast I should have gone straight to a physio, instead of thinking 'Oh, it's only a sprain...'. Sure, physios cost, but they are great at diagnosing injuries, at treating them, and at post-injury rehabilitation. When you realise how much an ankle injury costs in terms of lost health since you are partially immobilised, and lost social life since you can't go out dancing, the cost of a physio is a minor issue. Treatment is likely to include strengthening exercises related to your particular injury, and rebuilding the co-ordination that results in good balance.

As a preventative, it might even be worth getting a 'wobble board', which is often used by physios to rebuild ankle strength, or searching out ankle exercises in order to reduce the risk of injury in the first place. Probably better still, just dance a lot.

1 comment:

Chris, UK said...

"If you go to a tango class where balance is practised by standing on one foot, you can have good balance by focusing your eyes on one spot without blinking; of course, that doesn't help when you have to move."

Practicing standing on one foot is tango class make-work. It doesn't help the balance of tango dancing and often hinders it. In dancing, one's balance is never on one foot. It's on two - one of his and one of hers. That's the regular two-foot balance we've already practiced in years of everyday body use, but now extended and shared through the embrace. As with any other reflex-based faculty, what best develops it is simply using it - by dancing.