Hypermobility, EDS, and HSD are all conditions that can result in ankle hyper-mobility. Hypermobility in any joint means an increased risk of injury due to excess movement in the joint. In the ankles this can look like repetitively rolling your ankles, dislocating your ankle, or just ankle pain and aching in general. If you want to learn how to treat ankle hypermobility and what you can do to stabilize your ankles then this blog is for you!
What Causes Ankle Hypermobility
Hyper-mobility can be associated with a range of conditions such as:
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
- Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder
- Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
For a more in-depth look at what can cause ankle hyper-mobility I suggest you read my blog, “ Treatment options for Ankle Pain from Hypermobility”.
Hypermobile Ankle Injuries
Hypermobile does not mean flexible, it actually means unstable. When it comes to the ankle joints instability can result in ankle injuries doing something as simple as walking. These injuries include:
- Stress Fracture
Because a hype- mobile ankle can go beyond a normal range of motion there is more room for error when you trip, roll your ankle, or miss a step. This is why it’s important for someone with hyper-mobile ankles to provide extra stability to their ankles. Now, before you go buy a pricey ankle brace you may want to keep reading.
Best Exercises for Ankle Stability and Injury Prevention
The best way to strengthen your ankle and increase stability is with functional movement exercises. Exercises where you have a band around your foot and pull against it are not going to do anything for your stability in movement like walking, hiking, or working out which is where you need it the most!
The most important thing to keep in mind when picking and choosing which ankle-strengthening exercises are best for you and which are simply not worth your time is that your feet should be connected to the floor! Anything else is not going to address how your ankle stabilizes when you’re on your feet. Here are some ankle stability exercises we use with our patients which can range from beginner to advanced.
This exercise is the perfect beginner exercise! If you have hypermobile ankles then your balance is certainly impacted! After all, our feet are our connection to the ground, so if the connection is faulty, then all the structures above will be impacted. It would be like building a house on an unstable surface.
Now we are not just balancing for the sake of balancing, but to functionally stand on one leg requires a neutral spine, biological breathing, and keeping the heel, ball of the foot, and all toes on the floor. Watch the video below to learn how.
Standing Ankle Hinge (ankle mobility)
Ankle mobility is important, even for someone who is hyper-mobile! Note that mobility exercises are not the same as stretching! The point of stretching is to increase range of motion, but with a hyper-mobile person, we already have an excess range of motion! Instead, mobility exercises work on the strength and integrity of a joint through a range of motion. Which is exactly what is practiced in the exercise below.
For this ankle hinge exercise, you are controlling the amount of dorsi flexion and plantar flexion that occurs while the whole body is working to stabilize you. Focus on keeping your toes connected to the ground and not letting the arch of your foot collapse for the best results.
What I have found to be the most effective form of functional exercise to improve stability in a hyper-mobile person is Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS). DNS is a type of rehabilitative exercise that follows the path that every baby goes through to go from a helpless infant to a running toddler.
The exercise shown in the video below is a variation of the 11-month baby move, Bear, to include ankle stability and foot activation.
Are Ankle Braces Good for Hypermobility
The simple answer is, no! Putting an ankle brace on a hyper-mobile ankle is like putting a bandaid on a wound that needs stitches! Now with that said, if you are playing sports, that ankle brace may give you a bit more resistance before the joint has gone beyond its ‘stopping’ point.
If you’re a very active person with hypermobility, during the non-practice or game times, I prefer taping vs bracing in conjunction with the stabilizing exercises. We are not talking about immobilizing the joint but more of a kinesiology tape that has a stretch to it. My go-to is RockTape because they seem to last longer and not come off the body as fast. This kind of taping stimulates the sensory input to the brain for better stabilization and proprioception.
Where To Start If You Are Hyper-Mobile?
Hyper-mobility (EDS, HSD, MCAS) is not a death sentence and you are not doomed to just deal with pain. Do know that there are many steps you can take to start decreasing symptoms and you are not alone. It is best to seek care from clinicians that are familiar with hypermobility and treating patients with hyper-mobility. Search for hyper-mobile doctors and clinicians near you and interview them. Treating hypermobile bodies is not the same as the rest of the population and a clinician being in practice for even a long-time does not qualify them to know how to treat a hypermobile person. If you are hyper-mobile and are ready to provide your body with the stability it needs, contact me and ask whom I refer my hypermobile patients to for their health needs.