How to Prevent Chronic Instability After a Severe Ankle Sprain

Sep 08, 2023
How to Prevent Chronic Instability After a Severe Ankle Sprain
So much of how you walk, run, or do most things on your feet is down to the health of your ankles. This joint is also subject to injury, and repeated damage to it causes chronic problems. Here’s what you can do to avoid this problem.

Standing upright is one of the important milestones of an infant learning to walk and run, and that development becomes part of you for the rest of your life, regardless of how active you are. Your ankles are a vital part of how we stand, and remain standing to do all the things we do on our feet. This joint connects the bottom of your leg bones (tibia and fibula) to the important bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments you need to do anything upright. Because we rely on our feet and ankles so much, there are a range of conditions that can compromise our ability to use them, such as gout, bursitis, tendonitis, and arthritis, sprains, and strains.

Whatever the reason for your ankle problems, if you deal with multiple issues in the same areas, you risk the condition becoming chronic, and this can be especially bad after a severe sprain. This also increases the risk of long term issues with instability, and to understand how to manage this, let’s examine ankle sprains, what factors can lead to chronic instability, and what can be done to avoid and treat it.

If you live in the Fort Worth, Texas area and you’re struggling with ankle problems including chronic instability, Dr. Joseph Daniels and his team at Southwest Orthopedic Associates can help you back on your feet.

Understanding ankle sprains

Sprains and strains are often confused, as they refer to very similar injuries, but to different musculoskeletal tissue. A sprain is a stretching or tearing to ligaments of a joint, and a strain refers to stretching or tearing to the tendons and muscles of the same area. This means when referring to ankle sprains, the tissue likely to be damaged are the posterior and anterior talofibular ligaments, as well as the calcaneofibular, and deltoid ligaments. 

The most common type of sprain is an inversion injury, where the ankle rolls inward, damaging the ligaments on the outside of the ankle (specifically the anterior talofibular and calcaneofibular ligaments). Another possible strain, though less common is the eversion injury, where the foot turns outward. Twisting your ankle is a very common reason for either sprain, and it can happen as a result of walking on uneven surfaces, falling or tripping, and sudden turns or jumping from intense physical activity or sports.

Factors that lead to chronic instability

Often, if a previous injury has not healed properly or hasn’t had proper rehabilitation before going back into normal activity it increases the chances of reinjuring the ankle and causing a chronic problem. If the ligaments in your ankle never have the chance to heal properly, you lessen the effectiveness of those musculoskeletal tissues and make everyday tasks harder. And each time the joint is reinjured, the damage worsens unless it gets proper care. 

Signs of dealing with a chronic condition include repeated turning or rolling of the ankle in awkward positions, chronic discomfort and swelling, pain, tenderness, and feeling unstable when trying to use the damaged ankle.

Prevention and treatment

There are many options for managing injuries and avoiding future problems: 

Home care option to treat and prevent

When dealing with an ankle sprain, rest, icing the injury, using compression, and elevating the injury (the RICE method) is a good practice to maintain at home to care for the damaged joint. Using over the counter medications like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen can relieve pain, and prescription medication can be used if the injury or pain is too severe. 

In office options

Braces, sports tape, and elastic bandages can help stabilize the joint as it heals, and severe cases can use a cast or walking boot to help in that process while protecting the joint. Once an injury has reached the point where swelling and pain has reduced, physical therapy may be used to help you strengthen the ankle and get it back to full mobility. Surgery may also be an option if ligaments aren’t healing or the damage is too extensive to be managed with conservative means.

If you’re undergoing any sort of rehabilitation regimen, follow the instructions of your therapist and go through the whole treatment to give your ankle the best chance for full recovery and prevent chronic problems. So, if you have problems in stability in one or both ankles, make an appointment with Dr. Daniels and Southwest Orthopedic Associates today to get the help you need.