Chronic ankle instability is a condition that can develop following repeated outward (lateral) ankle sprains. It describes a weakness and instability in the ankle that results in it being more prone to giving way and rolling out. This puts you at a greater risk of injury while performing even daily household activities as well as sporting activities.
What causes chronic ankle instability?
Ankle ligaments play an important role in stabilising the ankle and controlling excessive side to side motion. When we roll and sprain the ankle, one or many of these ligaments incur damage of varying degrees of severity. They become painful, inflamed, and are unable to perform their role of stabilising the ankle to their full capacity, until they heal and are rehabilitated back to full strength.
Unfortunately, because of the relatively common occurrence of ankle sprains, many do not seek proper treatment and rehabilitation following ankle sprains and so the ligaments don’t regain their full strength or functioning capacity. This leaves the ankle less stable, and more prone to a recurrent sprain. Every subsequent sprain further stretches and weakens the ligaments and result in chronic ankle instability. The inflammation that can occur following ankle sprains can also contribute to the progression of chronic ankle instability because of the effect that a prolonged inflammatory process can have on tissues
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What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of chronic ankle sprains can include:
- A general feeling of instability at the ankle
- Repeated outwards rolling of the ankle
- Poor balance
- Pain or discomfort in the ankle
- Tenderness and swelling following rolling the ankle out
How is it treated?
Treatment focuses on returning stability and strength to the ankle joint. This may include:
- Strengthening the ankle joint through progressive loading and retraining the muscles and ligaments
- Balance training
- Using orthotics to add stability and control sideways motion at the ankle
- Assessing footwear to ensure it is helping and not hindering stability
- Activity modification aimed at activities with a high incidence of ankle sprains while you improve the functional capacity of the ankle