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Ankle Instability

Ankle instability refers to the involuntary turning of the ankle on the outside of the foot. This may occur while walking, exercising, or even while standing still. The condition may be chronic and can occur repeatedly. Athletes may be especially susceptible to ankle instability, but it can occur in non-athletes as well. The condition may be accompanied by chronic swelling, pain, and tenderness in the area.

Causes of Chronic Ankle Instability

Chronic ankle instability may be the result of an ankle sprain that has not properly healed or was improperly treated. The ligaments in the area are damaged when an ankle sprain occurs, which may affect the stability of the foot as a whole. Treatment for an ankle sprain often involves strengthening exercises for the muscles and ligaments in the area. By improving strength in the area, balance is restored.

Recurring ankle sprains may lead to ankle instability as the ligaments in the ankle are progressively weakened by the sprains. What’s more, ankle instability may actually put you at increased risk of further ankle sprains.

Diagnosis of Chronic Ankle Instability

If you notice that your ankle repeatedly turns on the outside of the foot or if you have suffered several ankle sprains, it’s important to talk to a doctor for proper treatment. Failure to treat the condition may put you at greater risk of arthritis, problems with the tendons in the foot, and further ankle sprains from turning the ankle.

The physician will inquire about your history of ankle sprains or previous injuries to the ankle or foot. An examination will be conducted to determine if tenderness, swelling, or instability is present in any part of the ankle. Some may require X-rays or other imaging procedures to evaluate the condition.

Treatment of Chronic Ankle Instability

Ankle instability may be effectively treated through physical therapy. Therapy sessions will focus on adding strength to the ankle and improving range of motion. Improving balance and retraining the muscles to balance may be included as well.

Wearing a brace around the ankle may help avoid turning the ankle through the support that it provides. Some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation in the area.

If non-surgical treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be required. Procedures include those to repair ligaments damaged through repeated ankle sprains. Other procedures may be required in severe cases of instability and depending on the overall structure of the foot and ankle.