You never realize how much work your ankle is doing for your body until you get injured. Suddenly, even the most routine tasks became difficult, from walking and climbing stairs to completing the day's work. If we're "lucky," the damage is minor, causing temporary discomfort, a little stumble as we get through the days, and some ice packs and ibuprofen. But fractures and dislocations can be very serious, very painful, and very limited. When should you ask your doctor about ankle braces?
Injured ankle? You are not alone
People often associate ankle injuries with sports. This is true; given the intense nature of sports such as football, basketball, track and field, and soccer, many athletes are at risk. But non-athletes are also vulnerable. We experience pain whenever the ankle twists in a way that takes it out of its natural positioning and alignment. Common causes include falls, trips, walking or running on uneven surfaces, sudden impacts (such as in a car accident), and twisting or rolling (such as might happen on a hiking trail).
You may suffer from:
Sprain: The ligament is stretched too far. It can also cause micro-tearing or tearing.
- Strain: Muscles and tendons are stretched beyond the ankle's typical range of motion. These are usually the result of trauma or sudden impact.
- Fracture: A bone breaks, causing a serious and painful injury.
- Dislocation: The separation of one or more bones in the ankle joint.
Signs of an ankle injury include swelling, bruising, tenderness, pain, and an inability to put weight on the foot. Because fractures and dislocations can be confused with simpler strains or sprains, it's important to check your ankle if you experience these symptoms, especially if they last longer than a few days or are severe in nature.
Ankle braces are designed to provide support after an injury and prevent it from getting worse. It is also becoming more common for people, especially athletes, to wear ankle braces to prevent injury. In fact, studies show they can reduce the incidence of acute ankle injuries -- but they don't reduce the severity. In other words, they prevent you from getting hurt, but if you do, braces won't make it any less serious.
How do ankle braces work?
Ankle braces provide you with external support and limit certain movements that can aggravate the injury or cause pain. For example, they can stop you from moving your foot down and inward.
When your ankle hurts, you have to give it enough time to heal. Many people feel better and return to normal activities. This puts them at risk for more pain and potentially more serious injuries. Braces can play an important role in the healing and recovery process. That is, they do not cure the pain or guarantee future injuries.
That's why it's crucial to talk to your doctor after an injury. He or she can recommend a brace that fits your needs and give you the information you need to use it properly. If necessary, your doctor can also refer you to a physical therapist and/or recommend specialized exercises that improve balance, range of motion, endurance, and strength.
When should you talk to your doctor about an ankle brace? Now. If your doctor doesn't think you will benefit from a brace, then you can move on. If you want, then...you can move on! Either way, you'll have a better idea of the next steps and what to expect as your ankle heals.
In general, ankle braces keep your feet and toes pointed forward to help prevent sudden twists. Braces can also reduce acute and chronic arthritis pain. can help you get back to activity.
Ankle braces reduce stress on the ankle during recovery for a sustainable return to activity. Then gradually restore the ankle while helping prevent re-injury.
What's the difference between all the different types of ankle braces?
Ankle Compression Sleeve
Ankle sleeves tend to be neoprene or knit. Ankle sleeves are often recommended for people with tendonitis, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, and other injuries.
Another benefit of wearing ankle sleeves is the compression they provide. This compression pushes blood flow to the ankle, keeping it warm and reducing muscle stiffness. Warmth is essential to keep blood flowing properly. They are usually sold by shoe size.
Ankle brace with straps
These are similar to ankle sleeves with one key difference. They come with straps for extra protection. Also allows you to adjust the shoulder straps for the proper amount of compression. The advantage is that the ankle support with straps provides more compression than ankle sleeves.
lace up ankle brace
Provides maximum ankle protection as you can tighten it from top to bottom for full protection.
This lace design allows for the most customizable adjustment of tightness from top to bottom. This allows you to get the most adjustable brace tension possible.
However, one disadvantage is that it restricts the natural movement of the ankle.
Articulating Ankle Brace
The innovative hinge design allows the brace to move with the ankle rather than resting on the ankle like a lace-up. This allows you to run and jump without restriction.
The hinged ankle brace is ideal for those looking for gentler ankle support for low ankle sprains.
Rigid Stirrup Ankle Brace
This is effective in treating repetitive ankle sprains and stress fractures. Comes with Velcro straps so you can easily adjust to your comfort. Good for high ankle sprains.
How Long Should You Wear Ankle Braces?
It depends on your situation.
If you only wear the ankle brace while exercising and your ankle is healthy. Then wear it only when exercising and take it off afterwards to avoid over-dependence.
If you sprain your ankle, you may only need to wear it for a few days. If it is a severe sprain, you may need to wear it for a few weeks.
If you tear a ligament or have other serious injuries, you may need to wear it for several weeks until it heals.
Your doctor will determine how long you need to wear it.
How do I clean my ankle brace?
Most ankle braces can be washed with cold water and detergent, then left outside to dry. It is best not to put it in the washing machine to avoid premature wear.
There you have it, everything you need to know about ankle braces. Now, if you need a custom ankle brace or want to relieve ankle pain, you don't have to rely on ankle braces. Just use the search box on this page to make an appointment with a physical therapist near you.