Saturday, 10 April 2010

Don't Let your Ankles be your Downfall

Last July I sat in Glenmore Lodge, being mocked by a fit twenty-something for my fear of 'turning an ankle' in the hills, and the consequential survival-gear I carry. "Ever broken anything?" I asked. "Or even twisted anything?" He didn't answer.

Having once sprained my ankle (while getting up to answer the phone), I knew how easy, and how debilitating this injury can be. It sounds so common-place, doesn't it? But the pain isn't...

Then, on the five weeks ago, I did it again. It was a stupid, easy, slip that in the hills might have jeopardised my life. In my garden, only ten yards from the phone, it did no more than jeopardise my ready-booked trip to Scotland, and was a timely reminder of the care I need to take - as though I don't take enough care already.

I have my physiotherapist and his advice to thank for a miraculous recovery (from still-on-crutches to ten-mile hike with 6kg tester, in three weeks). I mentioned on my other blog that I'd rued not seeking physio the last time I did it. Now, having had the care that only private medical treatment can provide (without a 12-week wait), I've learned that I don't, actually, have to resign myself to a 'weak ankle' for life - which is what I was beginning to think (having once broken it too) - and that I don't have to take pain, ibuprofen, and apprehension with me into the hills next month - or worse, cancel the trip.

Exercise, that's all it takes: we pay huge attention to our quads/gluteals/deltoids, and whatever else takes our fancy, but what about the peroneus longus? Anyone? I have a blue stretchy-thing now, attached to the leg of my dining-room table (see picture, below), and every time I sit with a cup of tea, I stick my foot in the loop and do 30-this-way and 30-that-way. I'm not only rebuilding the strength I've lost, but I feel I'm guarding against future injury too.

It sounds naff, but I didn't expect to be hiking over the downs with a half-laden pack by now - and well on my way back to the Cairngorms. It's worth all the naffness, a thousand times over.

Blue stretchy-thing for ankle exercises, keeping the lower leg completely still. (Click for a larger image.)


womagwriter said...

Photo please, of blue stretchy thing...?

Exercise is the answer to everything, I find. Last year in the Lake District my knees hurt so much on descents I was beginning to wonder if my mountain days were over. This year I rubbed ibuprofen gel on them in the mornings, wore knee supports and used a walking pole. I've also been running every week to build up muscle strength around my knees. And they were so much better on the climbs last week! Still hurt coming down, but it was a manageable pain, not nearly as bad as last year. There's life in me yet.

Glad to hear the ankle recovery has progressed well.

Martin Rye said...

Ibuprofen is my friend. I shoved my left ankle out of its socket and the bone poked through my skin. Years on it still hurts on walks and when backpacking Ibuprofen keeps me all flexible and fine. The thing that really made long walks a joy again was using trail shoes. Allowing my foot to move as it should helps a lot. My ankle hurts writing this from a walk today. That stretchy thing is interesting. As before photo please.

Leigh said...

Photo of stretchy thing to follow.

Womag - Have you tried glucosamine? I had a friend in his eighties who took it so he could keep skiing all day...

Martin - Ouch. Ouch! I would never have thought of wearing shoes - they'd make me feel even more vulnerable - but getting the strength and movement back is obviously the key. I'm glad you found a solution.

womagwriter said...

Glucosamine? Will look out for it. I eat a lot of oily fish to try to keep joints supple as well. Just as well I love salmon (was probably a black bear in a previous life...)

Leigh said...

Photos of blue stretchy thing added as promised!

womagwriter said...

Thanks for blue stretchy thing photos - I see now how it works!

I met a bloke at the weekend who's been up Everest. He recommended glucosamine as well.