Don’t Get It Twisted: Dealing with Unstable Ankles

Moving Ahead     Fall 2017

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If you turn your ankles frequently, it might be more than just a case of clumsiness.

Chronic ankle instability is a condition up to 20 in every 100 people deal with. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) says it causes: 

  • Ongoing discomfort
  • Pain
  • Repeated ankle turning, especially on uneven surfaces
  • Swelling
  • Wobbly ankles

Ankle instability can make the outside of your ankle give way while you’re walking, playing sports, or even just standing still. It’s a fairly common condition among athletes, but anyone can be affected by it. 

If you’ve never sprained your ankle before, ongoing instability isn’t likely to be a problem you’ll face in the future. Chronic ankle instability is usually caused by spraining your ankle multiple times or spraining it without letting it heal all the way before going back to your regular activities.

After you sprain your ankle, it’s important to let it heal completely. Sometimes after a sprain, you need rehabilitation to strengthen the muscles around your ankle so they are retrained to correctly help you keep your balance.

The first step in treating chronic ankle instability is to talk to your primary care provider about your specific condition to decide what might work best for you. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), non-surgical treatment options could include:

  • Bracing to help gain support and prevent more sprains
  • Medications, such as ibuprofen, to reduce the pain and swelling
  • Physical therapy to learn exercises to gain strength, balance, and range of motion

If non-surgical options don’t work for you, your doctor might recommend surgery to repair or reconstruct damaged ankle ligaments.

Surgery could include shortening your ankle ligaments or using a lower-leg tendon as an outer-ankle ligament. The type of surgery that is best for you will be determined by your physician.

Everyone can stumble on an uneven sidewalk from time-to-time. But, if your ankles are turning in often and making your feel unsteady on your feet, it’s time to find a fix.

For more information about cast care, talk with your doctor or visit our orthopedics page to find a physician.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.