How to Keep a Sprained Ankle from Becoming Chronic Instability

Your ankle is a small joint that endures a lot of force with every step you take. One misstep or awkward landing and you can easily overstretch or tear the ligaments, resulting in an ankle sprain. While it may seem like a minor injury, without the right care your sprained ankle can lead to chronic ankle instability.

At Town Center Foot & Ankle, our podiatry expert, Stephen Eichelsdorfer, DPM, can evaluate your injury and provide a customized treatment plan. To prevent your sprained ankle from becoming a chronic problem, here’s what you need to know.

From ankle sprain to chronic instability

The ligaments in your ankle help keep the joint stable and prevent it from moving beyond its limits. However, you can easily stretch or tear the tough bands of tissue if they’re forced beyond their normal range of motion. Sprained ankles are very common and can happen to anyone at any age. 

While it’s possible to take care of a mild sprain at home, you shouldn’t self-diagnose and treat a sprained ankle without consulting with specialists like us first, regardless of the severity of your sprain. Without proper care, you can easily reinjure your ankle, which may lead to chronic instability. In fact, as many as 20% of people with a severe ankle sprain will develop chronic ankle instability.

With chronic ankle instability, your ankle may feel wobbly and you may experience a “giving away” of the outer part of your ankle. This may occur while you’re walking, running, or even standing still. You may also develop chronic pain and swelling in your ankle. 

Treating your sprained ankle

With proper care, your sprained ankle doesn’t have to turn into a chronic problem. Treatment for your sprained ankle may depend on the severity of the sprain. Initially, we may recommend rest, ice, compression, and elevation until your pain and swelling subsides. We may also provide crutches to prevent any unnecessary pressure on your ankle immediately following your injury, and recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to help control pain.

However, we don’t recommend resting for too long. As soon as you’re able, we design an exercise program to help rehabilitate your ankle. An ankle sprain causes an imbalance in the joint, and the only way to restore balance and promote healing is by strengthening the supporting muscles and retraining the tissues in your ankle. When needed, we refer you to our in-office physical therapy for a one-on-one exercise program.

For additional ankle support as you rehabilitate your sprain, we may also suggest you wear an ankle brace to prevent a repeated sprain.

Surgery may be needed 

Surgery is rarely needed for an ankle sprain, but in some cases it may be necessary, especially when we’re trying to prevent chronic instability. However, we only recommend surgery after your rehabilitation program has failed to improve ankle stability. During surgery, we either repair or reconstruct your ligament (using nearby ligaments or tendons) to restore ankle health, function, and balance.

Sprained ankles are common, but without the right care, your sprain may turn into a chronic problem. For an evaluation and treatment plan from our team at Town Center Foot & Ankle, call or request an appointment online today.

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