What Is Ankle Instability?
Chronic ankle instability is a condition in which the ankle repeatedly “gives out” while engaged in physical activities, walking, standing, or when weight or pressure is placed on the ankle. Instability typically affects the lateral side (outside) of the ankle, resulting in a turning in, or inversion, of the ankle. Ankle instability can result in constant or recurrent pain, tenderness, swelling, and a feeling that the ankle may give out at any time.
What Causes Ankle Instability?
Repeated ankle sprains or sprains that have not healed properly can result in chronic ankle instability. Each time the ankle is sprained, the ligaments are stretched or torn, and if the area is not effectively strengthened following an injury, the ligaments may remain weak and can result in repeated sprains or instability of the ankle joint. Connective tissue disorders may also lead to chronic ankle instability.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ankle Instability?
The primary symptoms of ankle instability include a feeling that the ankle is unstable or loose, recurrent instances of the ankle “giving out”, or repeated ankle sprains. Pain, swelling and tenderness can also accompany instability.
How Is Ankle Instability Diagnosed?
A medical professional will take a complete medical history and will perform a physical exam. A physical exam will involve various movements of the ankle and foot to test for looseness, flexibility, stability, mobility, strength, and pain. The exam may include tests to determine the relative looseness of other ligaments within the body as well. X-rays may be used to check for problems or injuries involving the bones in the ankle, foot or lower leg that can lead to instability. An MRI may be used to get a better view of the soft tissues within the area, including ligaments and tendons.
When Should I Seek Care For Ankle Instability?
If you experience chronic ankle pain or a feeling of looseness that does not improve with a brief period of rest, you should seek medical advice. If you lose strength, mobility, or feeling in your ankle, pain is severe, or you cannot place any weight on your ankle while walking, you should seek immediate medical attention.
What Will The Treatment For Ankle Instability Consist Of?
Chronic ankle instability usually requires physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in and around the ankle (including the lower leg and foot) and to increase range of motion, flexibility and balance. If inflammation is present, rest, ice and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain. In some cases, wearing a brace or other type of ankle support provides added stability to the ankle joint. Changes in footwear may also help counteract ankle instability. Surgery may be required in cases of severe instability or if more conservative treatment doesn’t improve the condition.
Which Muscle Groups/Joints Are Commonly Affected By Ankle Instability?
Ankle instability occurs due to damaged or loose ligaments within the ankle joint, causing the ankle to turn inward or invert, or to “give out”, when pressure is exerted on the joint.
What Type Of Results Should I Expect From The Treatment Of Ankle Instability?
In most cases, conservative treatments will help treat ankle instability by allowing ligaments to heal and by strengthening surrounding muscles in the legs, ankle and foot. When treatment is unsuccessful or diagnosis indicates surgery is necessary, the procedures are typically successful in restoring ankle stability as long as a proper rehabilitation program is followed after surgery. Rehabilitation for this condition may take many months.