How to Prevent Chronic Instability Following a Severe Ankle Sprain

How to Prevent Chronic Instability Following a Severe Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains account for about 2 million emergency visits every year in the United States. That number doesn’t include those with mild sprains who treat themselves at home or anyone who sees their primary care physician about the problem. 

Severe ankle sprains share symptoms with other injuries, and they can cause damage that won’t heal without medical intervention. You also have a risk of developing chronic instability following a severe ankle sprain. The worse your injury, the more you need attention from an orthopedic specialist. 

James J. Reid, MD, is a foot and ankle expert with the skills and knowledge you need to fully recover from a severe ankle sprain. Without an advanced level of after-injury care, instability can lead to additional ankle sprain problems. 

What is chronic ankle instability? 

Mild and moderate ankle sprains tend to respond well to the RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — and you can expect to recover somewhere between 2-12 weeks. Moderate-to-severe sprains may not respond within that time frame, and chances are you’ll feel it in the lack of progress and a sense of instability in your ankle, as though it may turn to the side again, as it did during your original injury. You’ll probably still have some pain when you put weight on your foot. 

Spraining your ankle means that you’ve overextended the ligaments that normally limit the sideways rotation of your foot. Since it’s these ligaments that fail, they must fully recover before your foot returns to normal, and you can once again walk with stability. 

How to prevent chronic instability following a severe ankle sprain

As with many orthopedic injuries, Dr. Reid tends to move from conservative to complex treatments until your ankle responds. The first step of treatment determines that there’s no fracture or other damage and that the injury is a sprain. 

Starting with RICE, you’ll move on to crutches, canes, or boots to support or take weight off your injured ankle. As swelling subsides, physical therapy strengthens muscles that share the ankle’s load while maintaining or restoring its flexibility and range of motion. Neuromuscular training is a common physical therapy approach that’s proven to increase stability in the weeks after the injury. 

If these conservative treatments can’t improve your condition, the next step is surgery to deal with a ligament that’s either damaged or has stretched and recovered but is now too long to maintain joint stability. 

Because ankle injuries and patient anatomy vary widely, recovery from ankle sprains can be somewhat unpredictable. Mild sprains can linger while more serious injuries sometimes heal quickly. 

Your best route through ankle instability is in partnership with Dr. Reid. Schedule an exam with our office so that Dr. Reid can assess your injury and develop a treatment plan for you.  Call or click today to arrange your visit.


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