Ankle instability is a major problem for many people. Ankle sprains that don’t “get better” after 2 – 3 months can sometimes signify a mechanical problem that needs medical attention. Not all instability is extreme, but even mild instability can cause persistent pain and swelling, and can lead to further soft tissue damage. Excellent physical therapy can often help us compensate for ankle instability, but ankles that are very “loose” need surgical ligament reconstruction.
Causes of Ankle Instability
Before we go any further, let’s define what we mean when we talk about “ankle instability.” Ankle instability is a condition in which the ankle keeps “giving out” on the outer side of the ankle. This instability is typically caused by acute trauma such as an ankle sprain or a buildup of multiple acute traumas over time.
Tendons and ligaments stabilize the joints in your feet and ankles, and when they are forced beyond their normal range of motion, the result can be a painful injury. Most often this affects the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle and visible swelling and bruising will occur.
Contrary to a popular myth, ankle sprains and subsequent instability do not necessarily heal on their own without treatment. If left untreated, an ankle sprain can lead to chronic ankle instability down the line.
Treating Ankle Instability
Most mild ankle sprains can be treated with conservative options such as the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Pain can typically be controlled with over the counter NSADs (such as Tylenol or Advil).
Ankle instability can lead to much more serious injuries when left untreated. Physical therapy can often help improve ankle instability, but in some cases an ankle ligament reconstruction surgery may be necessary to reduce the instability.
Ankle Instability Specialist
If you would like to learn more about ankle instability and to see what treatment options would fit your situation, contact Dr. Thomas McDonald today! Dr. McDonald is a board-certified ankle surgeon with years of experience. He has clinics conveniently located in Enfield and Hartford, CT.