How to Keep a Sprained Ankle from Becoming a Chronic Instability

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How to Keep a Sprained Ankle from Becoming a Chronic Instability

It doesn’t matter if you’re a serious competitor or a weekend walker; you’re not immune from ankle sprains. They’re common for people of all ages and activity levels. Without proper attention, a sprain can turn into chronic ankle instability.

Ankle sprains are a common injury, particularly among sports participants. Still, one bad step and anyone can turn their ankle enough to stretch the ligaments beyond their normal range of motion. The number of ligaments stretched and the extent of tearing determines the sprain’s severity. 

When you’ve sprained an ankle once, your risk of future sprains increases. While most sprains resolve with conservative treatment, you may need additional rehabilitative therapy to strengthen your ankle and minimize the risk. 

Without it, you could develop a condition called chronic ankle instability. Essentially, this is a failure of the ankle to heal, and it’s characterized by the feeling of your ankle “giving out” at inopportune moments. 

Visit Hansen Foot & Ankle when dealing with a sprain and its recovery. Podiatrist Dr. Nathan Hanse, having a personal background as an athlete himself, knows the importance of full recovery and joint stability. 

What is chronic ankle instability? 

When you’re standing or walking, your feet and ankles resist an outward turn onto the foot’s side. When an uneven walking surface or sports activity forces this movement, ligaments of the ankle stretch to the point of tearing. This is an ankle sprain. 

Chronic ankle instability usually results from several ankle sprains. Your foot’s resistance to lateral rotation weakens. This becomes a recurring problem, happening more frequently and unexpectedly. Your ankle may feel uncomfortable all the time with constant swelling. There may be tender spots or outright pain. You’ll often feel that the affected ankle is unreliable. 

Causes of instability

Every sprain causes some weakening of the lateral ankle ligaments. Without full recovery, these weaknesses pile up. Ankle sprains accumulate, creating weaker ligaments until conservative treatment of the injury isn’t sufficient, and surgery must be considered to repair the ankle. 

How to keep a sprained ankle from becoming a chronic instability

Treat any ankle sprain as a potential long-term problem. All but the mildest sprains need medical attention since ankle sprains share symptoms with ankle fractures. As a sports injury specialist, Dr. Hansen can diagnose the damage to your ankle and develop a treatment plan. 

Along with the RICE protocol of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, Dr. Hansen may recommend additional conservative treatments, including ankle braces to prevent further turns as you recover and medications to reduce inflammation. 

Perhaps most importantly, physical therapy is often recommended to improve your range of motion and balance while building strength in the muscles supporting the ankle. This may include specific exercises for your favorite activities. 

Surgery is used for cases of advanced instability when your body doesn’t respond to conservative treatments. Procedures based on the extent of damage in your case, repairing or rebuilding the damaged ligaments. 

Contact Hansen Foot & Ankle to learn more about preventing chronic instability before it begins. You can reach the office by phone or online to schedule your consultation. Book your appointment today.