Hypermobility is an excessive range of motion in joints. It is different from being flexibile and can cause discomfort, injury, and pain in the affected joints, including the ankle. Ankle pain is a common complaint amongst hypermobile individuals and the instability leads to falls and further injuries. In this blog, we will explore the causes, symptoms, treatment, and best exercises for hypermobility and ankle pain.

What Causes Hypermobility In The Ankles?

Hypermobility can be caused by a genetic predisposition or an underlying medical condition such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome(EDS). In cases of EDS or Hypermobile Spectrum Disorders (HDS), excess activation of mast cells cause looseness of the ligaments. This looseness results in joint instability.

Now, certain activities that require repetitive ankle movements in extreme ranges, such as ballet, gymnastics, dance, and cheer certainly feed the problem. These activities over-encourage the ligaments to be pushed to the extreme. This causes injuries that linger for a long time if not, a lifetime.

Whether you have EDS or another hypermobile condition, instability in the feet and ankles is something that should be addressed sooner rather than later. Our feet and ankles are our base and are what connect us to the ground. If that connection is unstable then everything above is going to be impacted.

Symptoms Of Hypermobility In Ankles

Symptoms of hypermobility include joint pain, fatigue, and frequent dislocations which can vary from person to person. Depending on the severity of the hypermobility and the joints affected symptoms may vary. In the case of ankle hypermobility, some of the common symptoms include:

  • Ankle pain
  • Swelling
  • Instability
  • Foot pain
  • Repetitive rolling of the ankle and
  • Feeling of the ankle giving way or buckling

As mentioned above, issues in the feet and ankles impact the structures above which can also result in overall poor posture, dysfunctional movement, knee issues, hip pain, lower back problems, and more.

Treatment Options for Hypermobile Ankles

The best treatment for hypermobility and ankle pain must focus on stabilizing the ankle joint and strengthening the deep muscles of the feet. And that’s not accomplished with ankle braces! Also, in treatment, it is important to not disregard the structures above the ankles but should include functional movement of the whole body.

Let’s talk about braces here! No brace is going to provide support to fix a problem. The only brace that provides value, in my opinion, is worn in bed to support the degree of extension at the foot and ankle which is accentuated by the weight of the blanket over the feet while sleeping. This brace simply limits how far extended and outwardly rotated the foot can get both movements being excess in hypermobile persons.

Now, regardless of the physical rehabilitation provider (Chiropractor or physical therapist) the following needs to happen when it comes to the treatment of hypermobile ankles and feet:

  1. Functional Movement such as Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS). This is movement according to the natural design and addresses the ankles, not in isolation, but in full body movements. Remember, the feet and ankles serve as the base for the rest of the body and are not an isolated issue.
  2. Postural Neurology: The brain controls every function in the body! With lack of function, certain parts of the brain, in regards to movement and posture can actually shrink. The good news is we can activate weak parts of the brain with specific exercises including proprioception, balance, and stability.
  3. Biological Breathing: Would you believe that almost every patient that walks into my office is not breathing correctly? This dysfunction directly affects movement and posture resulting in compensatory patterns and negatively impacting stabilization.

Exercises for Ankle Hypermobility

The best exercises for ankle hypermobility are those that include how the ankle functions with the rest of the body, not just in isolation. Here are some specific exercises that may help:

Ankle Hinge:

 Single-Leg Stand:

This is exactly what it sounds like! You practice standing on one leg at a time focusing on the whole foot and toes being engaged into the floor. The entire spine must be neutral and done with proper breathing. This is going to work on your balance and ankle stability while the rest of the body plays its part. This is a great exercise to work into your daily routine with an activity like brushing your teeth.

Bear Advanced Ankle Stability:

What To Do If You Have Hypermobility and Ankle Pain

If you know you are hyper-mobile, or suspect this, and want to find pain relief, full body stabilization, and postural correction all in one office, contact me.  Remember, you don’t have to be in pain to address the problem now.

Dr. Shakib