How to Keep a Sprained Ankle from Becoming a Chronic Instability

If you’re struggling with sprained ankle pain, you’re far from alone. Every day in the US, some 25,000 people sprain an ankle. And while sprains aren’t as severe as fractures, these injuries can persist, worsen, and lead to long-term instability if you fail to take proper precautions.

As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot and ankle care, Dr. Cary B. Chapman is pleased to provide care for injuries affecting your ankles. Read on to learn more about sprained ankles and how to guard against chronic instability should one happen.

How sprained ankles happen

A sprained ankle happens when you overextend one or more of an ankle’s ligaments, by twisting, rolling, or turning the ankle in an awkward manner. This action can even tear the ligaments, which support your ankle bones, keeping them together and functioning well. While ankle sprains can impact any area of the ankle, the outer ligaments are most commonly affected. You can sprain an ankle during athletic activities involving plentiful leg movement, such as soccer or dance, or while simply walking over uneven ground.

Preventing chronic ankle instability

The best way to guard against chronic ankle problems, such as pain and instability, is to take care of your sprained ankle needs as soon as possible after the injury. If you think you may have sprained an ankle, Dr. Chapman will conduct an exam and determine your best course of treatment. If he confirms that your ankle is sprained, he’ll recommend a treatment plan, based on the specifics of your symptoms and the degree of your injury. 

If your sprain is mild, he often recommends following the RICE guidelines, which include resting, ice therapy, compression bandages, and elevating your ankle above your heart for 48 hours. Partially and torn ankle ligaments, however, require medical treatment. Dr. Chapman may recommend a cast-boot or short leg cast for 2-3 weeks to help keep your ankle protected and stable as it heals. The most severe sprains raise the most risk for chronic ankle stability. In this case, you may need reparative surgery, especially if you’re highly active or a competitive athlete.

Once you’ve healed, the following precautions can help prevent further injury and related instability:

You might also benefit from wearing an ankle brace during athletic activity, particularly if you’ve had recurrent ankle issues or more than one sprain. Signs you’re already experiencing signs of lasting instability include ongoing tenderness, feeling as though your ankle could give out at any moment, unusual twists of your ankle while you’re moving, and swelling. The sooner you tend to these issues, the better.

To learn more about ankle sprains and instability or get started with the care you need, call our office or request an appointment with Dr. Chapman through our website.

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