The ankle joint is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. It is built for both strength and flexibility, as it needs to bear the weight of our body while also having the flexibility for the various surfaces we walk on. The ankle joint can be prone to various types of injury and pain and ankle pain may be experienced on the inside or outside of the ankle or along the back where the Achilles tendon connects the muscles in the lower leg to the heel bone.
Most ankle pain results from a sprain, which occurs when the ankle rolls over the foot, causing a ligament to stretch or tear. Sprains are often sports-related but they can also occur when walking on an uneven surface of from taking a misstep. Ankle pain can also be caused by injury to any of the bones, ligaments or tendons in the ankle.
The most common causes of ankle pain include Achilles tendinitis, sprains, strains, stress fractures, broken ankle or foot bone, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Any kind of ankle injury will also affect our gait or walking pattern and in a chain reaction, the knee joint, hip joint, SI joint and spine become involved and so ankle pain can have far-reaching consequences.
Acupuncture is a great option for problems of the ankle and can effectively treat ankle pain of all types. All of the leg meridians can have an influence on muskulo-skeletal disorders of the ankle, and because the toes are the starting point of the body’s meridians, if there is an imbalance or obstruction in any meridian, often it will cause symptoms of pain or muscle imbalance in the foot or ankle.
As with other pain or injuries in the body, Chinese medicine (TCM) usually diagnoses ankle pain and injury as a blockage or lack of proper circulation of blood and qi-energy in the affected area. These blockages lead to pain, weakness, and an inability for the ankle to heal properly because it cannot receive the proper nourishment to do so. Acupuncture helps to remove blockages, increase circulation of the blood and energy, and also resolve any imbalances in the meridians that may be causing a weakness in the ankle and leaving it prone to injury or strain.
In the early stages of an injury, acupuncture can help to remove blockages and promote blood flow to the ankle, as well as relieve swelling and pain. With injuries in the middle stage of healing, acupuncture can help alleviate swelling and pain in the ankle, and promote healing of the tissues and bones. In later stages of injury, where the ankle has become rigid and weak, acupuncture can help to relax the tendons and remove blockages to regain movement and strength in the ankle. In all cases, acupuncture helps to strengthen the body and promote better functioning so that the body is better able to heal and to resolve the problem fully. Whether we are dealing with acute or chronic ankle problems, acupuncture can help to boost the body’s healing so that we can regain our health and return to our regular day to day functioning.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.