People tend to not think much of a sprained ankle, even if it is relatively severe. After a couple of weeks they may be able to walk without much pain and swelling, so they think their ankle is all healed up. Often, they return to sports and exercise without giving it much thought. I have seen old ankle sprains lead to distant problems that in no way seem connected to the sprain. Here is a recent case example:
A 71-year male came to the office complaining of mild right shoulder pain for the past six months and intermittent left hip pain for years. When he raised his arm to the side, he felt pain that was sometimes sharp enough to prevent him from raising his hand over his head. He says he never had an injury that he could remember, “it just came on slow.” When the patient walked, his left shoulder was completely immobile neither moving forward nor back. Muscle testing showed almost none of his shoulder muscles worked when they were supposed to. The same was true when his right hip was tested. When I got down to his right ankle there was a significant weakness in his tibialis posterior muscle. This muscle is critical for optimal function of the ankle and foot. I asked if he had sprained it. 3 years prior he had badly sprained his ankle while reaching for a golf ball on a hill. It took 3 months for him to walk normally. As a demonstration, I taped his ankle and had him walk around for about 5 minutes. With the tape was still on, I retested all those muscles and most of them had turned on! We would direct most of our therapies and rehab at his ankle. Within a week and 2 visits he was 90% improved. Imagine if we would have tried to treat the shoulder first. No matter what we would have tried, it would have always come back.
As a person walks their gait is a complex series of muscle turning on and off in a specific sequence. If a person does this flawlessly, it is relaxing to the nervous system. If there is disruption in the gait pattern, even if it is small, it can become a major stressor. This stress can manifest in any other joint in the body. Most likely the ones involved in gait.
The body will compensate and display many layers of dysfunction to survive and keep us moving. Think about it. Every step, (and there are thousands everyday), sends a little irritation into the nervous system and your body has to accommodate to that noxious stimuli.
If you injure your ankle, get a thorough evaluation that involves muscle testing and applied kinesiology. Be sure to rehabilitate your ankle so it is functional and strong so you do not end up with unexplained dysfunction elsewhere in your body.