How to Keep a Sprained Ankle from Becoming Chronic Instability

Walking, going to the gym, even keeping up with your kids around the house can feel impossible and even dangerous if you’re experiencing ankle issues. Chronic ankle instability can get in the way of more than just your social life; it can lead to long-term health concerns as you age. Approaching treatment can be confusing and even scary; fortunately, there are several options available for treating a wide range of issues associated with ankle pain. 

Dr. Mirylsa Colón-Martinez and her team of experts at OrthoWellness in Boca Raton, Florida can help address your discomfort with functional medicine and integrative approaches in a comfortable and inviting space. 

What is chronic ankle instability?

People who have sprained their ankle are at risk of developing long-term ankle instability. This condition is considered to be chronic because the outside part of the ankle gives out if weight is applied to it. People who suffer from chronic ankle instability often complain that their ankle feels wobbly when standing. Running, walking, or even stepping onto an uneven surface accidentally with an unstable ankle could put you at serious risk potentially worsening the state of your condition. 

What causes chronic ankle instability?

This type of instability can develop in people who have suffered a recent sprain or are prone to repeated ankle sprains. When ankle ligaments become overstretched or if they are torn and grow back together loosely, this results in mechanical instability.  This is often dangerous because unstable ankle joints can be easily twisted and sprained again. Those who participate in high-intensity sports like soccer or basketball are at a greater risk for this type of connective tissue failure. 

Symptoms

People who suffer from chronic ankle instability complain of an achy feeling on the outside of their ankle. This pain is often associated with a persistent tenderness, stiffness, and swelling of the ankle. The ability to balance is compromised and results in a repeated, involuntary turning of the ankle. Paying attention to the way you walk may help you avoid having your ankle roll to one side. Proper physical rehabilitation is necessary for long-term recovery and can help by strengthening the muscles that help you stay balanced inside of your ankle.  

Diagnosis and treatment options 

During the diagnosis, Dr. Colón-Martinez will ask you about any previous injuries, surgeries, and severity of the instability. She will then examine your ankle inspecting for tender areas and signs of swelling. X-rays or other photographs may be taken to help further evaluate the exact causes of instability. 

Treatment options will be prescribed to you by Dr. Colón-Martinez based upon the results of your tests. To treat mild pain or soreness, you should employ the R.I.C.E. method. R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compress, and elevate. Rest gives your ligaments time to recover, while cold therapy works as a method of pain relief by reducing inflammation. Try using a compression ice wrap to utilize both processes simultaneously effectively. 

Some nonsurgical treatment options include

When to consider surgery

Dr. Colon-Martinez will recommend surgical intervention if your condition fails to respond to nonsurgical approaches. Surgery will usually involve repairing or reconstructing the damaged ligaments in your ankle. The severity of your case will determine which procedure may be right for you. Minimally invasive procedures have been known to produce successful, long-term result for those patients who suffer from chronic ankle instability. Some of these options include shorter recovery times, less need for O.T.C. medication, reduced risk for infection, and blood loss.  Because surgery is often a last resort option, Dr. Colon-Martinez will collect detailed information from you, including your age and medical history before deciding on the best treatment option.

Your ankle has several sturdy band-like components that keep your bones connected to the structures in your foot. On the outside of your foot, you have the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and the calcaneofibular ligament (C.F.L.). These ligaments help keep you balanced and steady as you walk. Dr. Colon-Martinez will begin by making a small incision on the outside of your ankle. Ligament repair is an outpatient procedure that involves shortening and tightening these ligaments. Ligament reconstruction is reserved for patients whose tissues are determined incompetent. In these more severe cases, a tendon may be taken out of the lower leg and used as an outer ligament in the ankle. The tendon will be rerouted through the bones in your ankle to reinforce the structure and provide support to the damaged ligament. 

If you're experiencing chronic discomfort from a weak ankle, don’t hesitate to call our office or book an appointment online.

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