Chronic ankle instability is a condition in which the ankle unexpectedly gives way when walking, running, or in some cases, even standing still. This condition will worsen over time and the patient will experience an increase in incidences if treatment is not administered.
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Ankle Instability
Ankle instability is a leading factor in cases involving turned or sprained ankles. Over time and with repeated ankle injuries, the patient is then considered to suffer from chronic ankle instability. The most common signs and symptoms associated with this condition include:
- Repeated turning of the ankle episodes
- Swelling in and around the ankle area
- Chronic discomfort in the ankle
- Pain and/or tenderness in the ankle
What Causes the Ankle to Weaken?
Patients who suffer from chronic ankle instability have usually experienced a previous sprained ankle injury in the affected foot. In most cases of chronic instability, the sprain did not heal properly or the patient was not rehabilitated completely. As a result, the ligaments and muscles surrounding the ankle are not strong enough to support the patient and their balance can be compromised. As the patient suffers repeated ankle turnings, their ankle continues to weaken and the risk of spraining their ankle is increased.
How is Chronic Ankle Instability Diagnosed?
The foot and ankle surgeon will inquire about the patient’s medical history and ask about any previous ankle injuries or instability experiences. A complete physical examination of the affected foot will be conducted and in some cases, X-rays or other imaging tests may be ordered to help further evaluate the foot.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Chronic Ankle Instability
Chronic ankle instability can be successfully treated without surgery in a high percentage of cases. Typical non-surgical treatment options include:
- Physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the ankle area
- Ankle brace
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling
When is Surgery Needed?
If the patient does not experience any improvement in the ankle’s stability after trying the non-surgical treatments, then the foot and ankle surgeon may recommend surgery. Surgery usually consists of repairing or reconstructing the damaged ligaments in the ankle and foot. Recovery time is dependent upon the severity of the injury and the types of procedures performed.
Regardless of the case, you surgeon at Pennsylvania Foot and Ankle Associates will discuss all of the conservative and surgical treatment options available to you so you can make the most informed decision about your treatment plan.