Chronic Ankle Instability

A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away… just kidding, it was a grade school in Ohio… I remember a friend who would suffer an ankle sprain at least once a week during recess. Many of us thought she was possibly being over-dramatic, but some people do actually suffer from chronic ankle instability, which leaves them more prone to sprain and strains than the rest of us. This affects somewhere between 10 to 20 people out of every 100 who experience ankle sprains.

Based on the most current research, this isn’t necessarily a genetic condition. Most cases occur from a previous ankle sprain injury that does not heal correctly or fully. Those who ha e a high instep/arch are more susceptible since their feet do not adapt as well to unstable terrain as those with more flexible ligaments and arches. Patients report that after an initial sprain, their ankles feel less stable and have gotten more swollen and painful. Secondary complications may occur from this, including synovitis (joint swelling), tendonitis, and tendon tears. Instability can develop from overstretched or torn ligaments that grow back together too loosely. This affects the way bones and ligaments interact, which, of course, can cause more problems.

Our bodies react through a process called proprioception, which basically means our muscles react in a predictable way based on the chemical inputs they are receiving. This is what the subconscious parts of our brain do to control all motor functions in our body. If these receptors are not firing properly for our ankles, we may feel a constant sensation of instability of coordination.

If you experience chronic ankle instability, you have several treatment options based on the severity and longevity of the problem. Many patients are able to recover stability with simple exercises and the strategic use of an ankle brace. If only an ankle brace is used, coordination and strengthening exercises may be recommended as an important part of rehabilitation. In some cases, surgery may be the best option. Even after surgery, exercises and strict adhering to a doctor’s recommendations is the best option for a full and successful recovery.

Time is of the essence here. Early recognition and early treatment will mean a shorter recovery time and better future foot health for you. If you experience chronic pain from ankle sprains or any sort of injury, please visit your podiatrist to have an evaluation. Early recognition could mean the difference between several weeks of wearing a brace and strengthening exercises and a few months of surgical recovery. I say it in almost every blog post, but pain is NOT NORMAL. If you are still experiencing complications after an ankle sprain, please go see your podiatrist and get it check out before it become a chronic problem.

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