The diagnosis of chronic ankle instability is characterized by a recurrent "giving way" of the outer lateral side of the ankle. Oftentimes, this condition occurs after repeated ankle sprains. Usually the "giving way" happens while walking, running or through other activities, but it can also happen when a person is standing still. Many athletes and non-athletes alike suffer from chronic ankle instability.
People with chronic ankle instability often report the following symptoms:
- A repeated turning of the ankle, especially on uneven surfaces or when participating in sports
- Persistent and chronic discomfort and swelling
- Pain, tenderness or both
- The ankle feeling unstable and wobbly.
Chronic ankle instability generally arises following an ankle sprain that did not completely heal or in some cases, where rehabilitation routines were not followed or were ineffective. When the ankle is sprained, the connective tissue (ligaments) are stretched or partially torn. Balance is often affected. Rehabilitation is required to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and "retrain" the tissues within the ankle that effect balance. Failure to follow rehabilitation protocols closely may result in repeated ankle sprains.
Repeated ankle sprains are often the cause of chronic ankle instability. With each subsequent sprain, the ligaments are further weakened or stretched, leading to instability and the potential for other problems to develop in the ankle. In evaluating and diagnosing your condition, the professionals at East Ocean Podiatry will ask you about any previous injuries to your ankles and whether there is existing instability. X-rays and other imaging techniques may be required to pinpoint the problem and also how to best treat your injury.
Treatment for chronic ankle instability is based on the results of our extensive investigation the injury itself. Other factors including level of activity are also taken into condition.
Non-surgical treatment may include:
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy involves a myriad of approaches to strengthen the ankle, increase range of motion, augment balance and the retraining of muscles.
- Bracing. A brace can add support for the ankle and prevent it from "rolling".
- Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be prescribed to help reduce pain and inflammation.
In certain cases surgery may be required. This of course, depends on the severity of the chronic ankle instability. At East Ocean Podiatry we can repair or reconstruct damaged ligaments. Depending on a host of factors, rehabilitation periods depend on individual differences such as age, activity level and the type of procedure required.
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