How to Keep a Sprained Ankle From Becoming Chronic Instability

A sudden slip or fall could land you with a sprained ankle. Sprained ankles occur for a variety of reasons and are common among super athletes and homebodies alike. Ankles can be sprained when one or more of the ligaments become stretched or torn. This can lead to significant pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. 

Proper treatment and physical therapy can help you heal a sprained ankle in no time, but if you choose to ignore it, it could lead to some significant health issues in the future. Seeking medical attention for sprained ankles is necessary and could help you preserve the range of motion and stability in the affected ankle. If not treated properly, this often leads to more sprains in the future, which could require surgical intervention to be corrected. 

At Hoosier Foot and Ankle located in the Greater Indianapolis area with offices in Carmel, Indianapolis, Franklin, Greenwood, Zionsville, and Fishers, Indiana, our podiatry team offers expert care and treatment options that can address a number of foot and ankle issues. 

What causes a sprained ankle?

Lateral ankle sprains are common and occur when your foot rolls inward, damaging the ligaments in the outer ankle. It is important to treat a sprained ankle by practicing the rational RICE regimen, resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the ankle. Decreasing pain and swelling will allow the ankle to begin healing. 

You should avoid activities that may increase swelling such as taking a hot shower. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are effective in reducing swelling, giving way to a quicker recovery. Failure to treat a sprained ankle could lead to even more dangerous ankle issues, including chronic ankle instability. 

What is chronic ankle instability? 

Chronic ankle instability is a condition that affects people who have sprained their ankle repeatedly or who have suffered a recent sprain. Patients with this condition report being unable to put weight on the outside of their ankle. They often complain that they feel unstable while standing, running, or walking. Mechanical instability occurs when the ligaments in your ankle are torn or overstretched because this causes them to grow back together loosely putting them at risk for being sprained again. 

Diagnosing chronic ankle instability

If your pain or swelling is severe, you should seek immediate medical attention. One of our physicians will manipulate your ankle in various ways to determine how severe your injury is. To determine if the ankle is fractured, a doctor will feel for tender spots and examine how much weight the ankle is able to bear. In diagnosing chronic ankle instability, your physician will inquire about previous injuries or instability. X-rays may be helpful in diagnosing either acute or chronic mechanical ankle instability. 

Treating and preventing chronic ankle instability 

Chronic ankle instability can be prevented if a sprained ankle is given proper attention as soon as symptoms arise. Some nonsurgical treatment options include physical therapy, which will strengthen the ankle through various exercises allowing you to retrain your muscles and regain lost range of motion. Ankle braces can help prevent chronic ankle instability because they keep your ankle from turning incorrectly, leading to further injury. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help in reducing inflammation, which will allow your ankle to begin the process of healing.

If your ankle fails to respond to these treatment options, one of our specialists may recommend surgery. Ankle reconstruction and repair target damaged ligaments and help improve overall stability. Maintaining the health of your ankle is crucial to avoiding recurrent sprains. If you’ve experienced a sprain, you should consider following a physical rehabilitation program and avoiding physical activity until you are cleared by the physician. 

If you’re experiencing chronic ankle instability, call one of our offices, or book an appointment online. 

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