Ankle sprains can vary greatly in severity - and ultimately lead to chronic ankle instability if left untreated.
Even though you may not think much about an ankle sprain, it's important to allow your ankle to heal properly and then rehabilitate it completely.
Chronic ankle instability is characterized by a recurring "giving way" of the outer (lateral) side of the ankle. It usually develops after repeated ankle sprains (ligaments stretching beyond their normal range) that weren't healed properly. Commonly, you'll experience your ankle giving out while walking or doing other activities, but it can also happen when you're just standing.
You're not alone. Many athletes, as well as others, suffer from chronic ankle instability. Symptoms inlude:
- A repeated turning of the ankle, especially on uneven surfaces or when participating in sports
- Persistent (chronic) discomfort and swelling
- Pain or tenderness
- Feeling like the ankle will 'give out'
Treating the Condition
Treating your ankle sprain or instability is based on the results of the examination and tests, as well as on your level of activity. Non-surgical treatment may include:
- Physical Therapy. Exercises to strengthen the ankle, improve balance and range of motion, and retrain your muscles.
- Bracing. An ankle brace provides extra support for your ankle and also helps prevent additional ankle sprains.
- Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and inflammation.
With the right treatments and care, ankle sprains and instability do not have to be the end of your mobility.
Depending on the degree of instability or lack of response to non-surgical approaches, you may need surgical treatment. However, with the right treatment, proper footwear and braces, and focused rehabilitation, you can usually heal your ankle sprain and significantly reduce the chance of developing chronic ankle instability. Refer to our FAQ if you have more questions about ankle sprains and ankle instability.
Before undergoing any treatment, be sure to talk with your physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations.