Dr. Jessica Lee – Hong Kong Chiropractor

Information and Thoughts about Chiropractic, Health, and the Human Body.


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Can Ankle Sprains Lead to Back Pain??

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As a chiropractor, ankle sprains are one of the most common complaints that my patients have. Often these are due to sports injuries, but I have seen many that were due to walking on uneven surfaces or just missing a curb. Immediately after the sprain, there is usually swelling and pain that can affect your daily activities. After 4-6 weeks, the soft tissues will have mostly healed, but I have seen many cases that have lasted for months or even years where the original ankle sprain has led to problems in the pelvis or lower back due to compensation. Most people don’t realize that even minor ankle sprains can lead to long-term consequences.

First of all, the ligaments that are damaged during the sprain lose their elasticity and functionality due to build up of scar tissue. This is why after jogging or long walks especially on uneven ground you may notice increased ankle pain or stiffness. The ankle ligaments also become overstretched from the sprain when the ankle is suddenly turned past its normal range of motion. Once these ligaments are overstretched they will not return to their original shape and this results in decreased stability in the joint. Both of these problems lead to increased chances that you will sprain your ankle again. These issues also change the way the ankle moves and may lead to problems in the parts of the body above this joint including the knees and the spine.

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The sprained ligaments also lose the ability to effectively communicate with the brain leading to decreased coordination of the ankle. This leads to poor balance, and again, you are more likely to twist your ankle repeatedly. This makes walking on uneven surfaces or playing sports more dangerous because our brain is having trouble telling our body how to make small adjustments to avoid injury. Decreased coordination also changes the way you walk leading to torsion or strain in the lower back.

If an ankle sprain is not properly treated it may lead to chronic stiffness. This means that the ankle may have trouble moving in certain directions such as the toes moving upwards and turning the foot outwards. This loss of ankle motion will cause changes in how the body moves during walking. Since the heel is not contacting the ground properly, the muscles of the pelvis and leg regions will not work efficiently and lose strength, leading to an alteration of normal gait that in turn can lead to problems such as lower back pain.

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Even minor ankle sprains can have a big effect on your body. With proper treatment, improvements can be made quickly even with chronic cases. If you have an old ankle sprain then you may need chiropractic therapy to help you achieve full range of motion and complete your rehabilitation. An examination of the structures that have been affected since that time may be necessary including the hips and lower back. Some chiropractors will perform special techniques on the ankle to help promote healing and increase the ankle’s range of motion. Chiropractic treatment can help to prevent chronic and recurrent problems. If you have ankle, knee, hip, or back pain, your chiropractor will perform a careful case history and examination to determine the actual cause of the problem and remedy it accordingly.

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Is Crossing the Legs Good or Bad for Your Spine?

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“Sit properly! Cross your legs! Be more ladylike!” Many of us ladies were scolded by our mothers growing up to sit with our legs crossed at the knee.  Nowadays, most men and women usually cross their legs due to comfort and habit rather than for manners.  Often when we cross our legs now, one of our friends will exclaim “don’t cross your legs, that’s bad for you!”  Ever wonder why?  Well, this position can lead to an unbalanced pelvis or even contribute to pelvis, lower back, and hip discomfort.

The pelvis needs to be balanced for the spine to be balanced.  The pelvis consists of 3 bones: the two hip bones and the triangular sacrum in between.  If the hips are level and the hips and sacrum are aligned, the legs will be able to sit evenly into their sockets and the spine can be straight.

How can crossing the legs lead to pelvic imbalance?

The bones of the body are held together by tendons and muscles, which run from one bone to the next.   These keep the bones in the right place so that every joint can move properly.  Each muscle has a specific length and when they are all in their ideal range of length, everything is held in perfect alignment.   However, if you habitually adopt a slightly different position, slowly over a long time the muscles adapt and become permanently longer or shorter leading to the chance that your joints will move out of place.

Constantly crossing your legs eventually makes the outer thigh muscle longer and the inner thigh muscle shorter.  When the posterior hip muscles shorten, it can lead to tightness and discomfort in the lower back and hips.  Over time, this additional pressure on the hip muscles and the sciatic nerve can throw off your sacroiliac joint and pelvis leading to sciatica and back pain.

Sometimes your pelvis may be already out of alignment for other reasons such as accidents, falls, poor posture, etc.  In this case, the body may try to alleviate the discomfort by crossing the legs.  Crossing one of the legs will lessen the discomfort by taking the pelvis out of a neutral position to adapt to the imbalanced pelvis; however, this will just create more problems over time if the original issue is not corrected.

When is there a problem with crossing legs?

 Crossing the legs is acceptable if you cross both sides approximately for the same amount of time and switch regularly as this is just a position switch that can relieve your body when sitting for long periods of time

It becomes a concern if:

  1. You notice that you feel more comfortable with one leg crossed over the other
  2. You always cross only one side over the other
  3. You find that crossing one way has more hip range than the other side.
  4. You notice that when you walk it seems like you have two different length legs
  5. You get regular low back or pelvis pain
  6. Feel like one leg is becoming weaker or heavy
  7. If your lower back, hips, or pelvis feel uncomfortable when you sit properly

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If you experience these problems you need to seek a qualified professional to assess your pelvis and spine, and to check the nerves.  Chiropractors are highly experienced in balancing the spine and nervous system.

How should you sit?

Find a supportive chair with good low back support that allows you to sit with feet flat on the floor, knees and hips close to 90 degrees.  Your weight should be placed evenly across both bones of the bum and make sure there is a natural arch in the lumbar spine.  The most important point is to remember to take breaks often from sitting at least one time every hour and get moving!