By Ehren Allen, PT, CMT
When should you wear an Ankle Brace?
Ankle braces can be helpful tools to protect the ankle with activity when there is an injury or instability in the ankle joint. The ankle is a complex area with multiple bones and joints working together to allow for dynamic movement. The ankle is rich with nerve receptors which detect movement and send messages to the brain about where the body is and what position it is in. The brain then sends information to the muscles around to ankle to respond and provide stability and allow safe and efficient movement.
When there is an injury to the ankle, some of the nerve receptors and ligaments that support the ankle can become compromised. This can make the ankle unstable and increase the risk of further injury with activity, especially when changing directions.
When recovering from an injury or after multiple injuries, an ankle brace may be appropriate to provide external support and protect the ankle from further stress and injury.
Do Ankle Braces Weaken the Ankle?
Ankle braces do not directly weaken the ankle, but they can become a crutch. As with any external support, our bodies are inherently lazy. If there is support from an external brace, the muscles which typically provide support may start to depend on the brace and become less responsive to the demands of the joint.
Ankle braces are appropriate for patients who are recovering from injury and surgery, but they are typically not appropriate if there is no underlying issue.
Even after an injury, it is typically important to strengthen the muscles and train the ankle to respond to direction change and position change. Physical therapy plays and important role in returning the ankle to full function and stability.
What is the Best Ankle Brace?
Not all Ankle Braces are the same. At the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, we carry the ASO ankle brace. It is a soft, lace up brace with Velcro straps that provide support to the sides of the ankle. The ASO can be worn inside a shoe and can be used during sporting activity. The ASO allows movement of the ankle but limits extreme movements and positions.
The removable cast (walking boot) is another brace option offered at JOI. This brace is large and cumbersome but provides maximum support and stability for major injuries or immediate post-surgery situations. The Walking boot is not used with advanced activity but it does allow patients who are permitted to weight bear to walk on the injured ankle/foot with protection. The walking boot does not allow movement in the ankle and foot.
For patients who have a fracture or require long term immobilization, or casting of the foot and ankle, JOI offers the ActivArmor custom removable casts. ActivArmor uses 3D printing technology to construct an incredibly durable removable cast, custom made to fit the individual ankle and foot.
How much does an ankle brace cost?
ASO braces are really affordable (under $50) for most patients depending on the insurance company. It is important to be fitted for these braces by a professional. The appropriate sizing is very important to insure proper safety and stability.
The Removable casts can be costly but are typically covered to some extent by most insurance companies if medically necessary.
ActivArmor splinting requires a $100 scanning fee. It is then billed as a any other splint or cast. This option alleviates the fear of getting a cast wet.
If you have ankle issues or and injury, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help. From world class physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers, JOI has the experience and equipment to provide you with the best treatment and brace for your needs. Come see us!