Don't Give Way to Chronic Ankle Instability
Problems of the past often come back to haunt us. Sometimes you can injure yourself playing school sports, and years later still suffer the consequences. It may have been a long time ago that you sprained your ankle by sliding into second base, but it still often feels as if it will “give way” when you are walking—especially on uneven ground. That feeling may be due to chronic ankle instability, a weakening in the ankle joint ligaments that allows your bones to move to the outside.
Repeated Ankle Sprains That Don’t Heal
A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that support the joint are stretched too far. It can happen while playing sports, dancing, or walking on surfaces that aren’t level—any activity that can throw you off balance and stretch the joint beyond its normal range of motion. Mild ones don’t usually cause lasting damage, but a severe sprain that is not allowed to heal properly can put you at risk for ongoing problems. If the ligaments don’t regain their original strength and stability, you are more prone to re-injury, stretching the ligaments even farther. It sets up a vicious cycle of sprain/weakness/re-sprain that can spiral into a severe problem.
Break the Cycle with Proper Sprain Care
Proper healing and rehab of an ankle sprain can help prevent problems in the future. It is a good idea to have your sprain evaluated at The Plateau Foot & Ankle Clinic to know its severity and rule out other problems like fractures. The first few days after a sprain you will need to reduce swelling with ice packs, compresses, and elevation, and we may recommend an anti-inflammatory or pain-relief medication to relieve your discomfort. It is important to protect the ankle from unusual movement. We may have you wear an ankle brace, hiking boots, or tape the ankle to hold it in place. You may be unable to walk on a severe sprain at all and need crutches to get around. Even then, we may recommend putting gentle weight on it to promote healing.
Once the swelling goes down, we can start with therapy to help you strengthen your ankle, work on its flexibility and range of motion, and regain your balance and stability. There are many exercises you can do at home to retrain your muscles and ligaments to function properly. Stretching is also an important part of your rehab. Remember that if you feel pain when doing any of these, you are probably going too fast. We will let you know when you can safely begin to put weight on the joint again and add other activities at the proper time.
Surgery May Be Needed for Severe Ligament Damage
Most ankle sprains will take several weeks to heal, and can take months if they are severe. Some people will want to keep wearing an ankle brace or use taping for active sports even after healing. This will help prevent re-injury of the ankle. If the ligaments are torn or so loose that conservative care doesn’t give enough stability to keep you safe, we may recommend surgery to repair them.
Here at The Plateau Foot & Ankle Clinic we specialize in sports medicine--helping athletes to stay at the top of their game. If you repeatedly turn your ankle, feel wobbly, or have pain or swelling in the joint, it’s time to come in and let Dr. Howard Schaengold evaluate your condition. Our office in Sammamish, WA, serves the larger Bellevue, Issaquah, and Redmond areas as well. Call us today at (425) 868-3338, and we’ll put you on the road to strong, healthy ankles again.