Chronic ankle instability

What is chronic ankle instability?

Chronic ankle instability is the recurring giving way of the ankle, often developing after repeated ankle sprains. The ankle is one of the most traumatized parts of the body. Sport injuries of the ankle account for 10-30% of all sport injuries. Ankle sprains are very common making up a high percentage of those injuries. Ankle injuries have a high recurrence rate of spraining the ankle again. When someone sprains their ankle, the ligaments can be stretched or torn. This can affect a person’s ability to balance, if not rehabilitated efficiently the lack of proprioception can increase the likelihood of spraining the ankle again. Every time the ankle is sprained it causes further weakening of the ligaments. This weakening creates more instability through the ankle. When chronic ankle instability occurs, the ankle often gives way with activities like walking but can also happen when you are just standing. This instability can lead to other problems within the ankle.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Someone who has chronic ankle instability may experience:

  • Ankle repetitively “rolling”, especially on uneven surfaces or during sports activities
  • Ongoing discomfort and swelling of the ankle
  • Pain
  • A feeling of being unstable or wobbly

To diagnose chronic ankle instability a health care practitioner will ask you a few questions about previous ankle injuries and what symptoms you are experiencing. They will then assess the range of movement of the ankle, look for signs of swelling and examine the surrounding muscles and tissues for tenderness. Further investigation might include getting some imaging such as X-rays or MRI scans done.

Treatment for Chronic Instability

The treatment of chronic instability depends on;

  • what is found during the examination
  • he individual’s circumstances.

There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Non-surgical treatment options may include:

  • Physical therapy: This can involve a hands on treatment of the foot, ankle and leg as well as prescribing exercises to strengthen the ankle, improve balance and retrain the muscles.
  • Taping or bracing to provide extra support and prevent the ankle from rolling
  • Medication prescribed can help to reduce pain and inflammation

In some cases, surgery is the choice of treatment. This will depend on the degree of instability and usually when all conservative treatment options have been exhausted. Surgery often involves both ankle stabilization as well as an arthroscopy to assess the integrity of the ankle joint. Following the surgery, rehabilitation and physical therapy is still essential in order to build strength, improve balance and retrain the muscles of the ankle.

Need help with a recurrent chronic ankle issue?

Seeing one of Our Osteopaths is a good place to start.

Belicia Ralph - Osteopath Brisbane

Written by Osteopath – Dr Belicia Ralph.

Belicia works from our Brisbane City Eagle Street Clinic Monday – Friday. You can make an appointment to see Bel online

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