Increased Ankle Stiffness Reduces Proprioception and Balance

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Injuries to our spinal and extremity joints can impact a variety of structures including muscle, ligament, and nervous system receptors.  The sensors or proprioceptors are critical in providing real time feedback to our spinal cord and brain on the positions of our limbs.  This feedback system is disrupted by injury leading to slower information processing and in turn a loss of balance.  Most commonly this cascade is seen in patients with ankle sprain.  Without balance training and physical therapy our proprioceptive system remains impaired.

A recent study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy (Rocha Marinho, H. et al. 2017) examined the proprioceptive and balance abilities of patients complaining of ankle joint instability and their uninjured peers.  The authors also evaluated the passive movement in the subjects ankles.  Consistent with previous research the patients complaining of ankle instability demonstrated the worst proprioception or balance.  Those with limited ankle mobility and higher levels of stiffness demonstrated reduced balance or proprioceptive ability.  This research highlights the importance of retraining the nervous system after joint and muscle injury.  
For more information on proprioception training contact your local Physical Therapist.