Preventing Chronic Instability After a Severe Ankle Sprain

Feb 13, 2024
Preventing Chronic Instability After a Severe Ankle Sprain
Sprained ankles are common — and they’re more than just a momentary inconvenience. The injury can put you at risk of chronic ankle instability, but the good news is that proactive care can help protect you. Learn how to care for your sprain here.

Sprained ankles are incredibly common. They can happen in a moment with just one awkward step — and they may seem like a minor inconvenience, but many people underestimate the threat they pose if not properly treated.

About 20% of acute sprains develop into a condition called chronic ankle instability. Chronic instability makes your ankle feel weak and give way, leading to ongoing pain and increasing your risk of future sprains.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prevent chronic instability after an ankle sprain. Adam Redlich, MD, Adam Thompson, DO, and our team at A+ Athlete Sports Medicine provide advanced care for ligament injuries, and we can help you get the proper treatment to avoid long-lasting complications.

What happens when you sprain your ankle?

Ligaments are tough, flexible bands of tissue that connect your bones and stabilize your joints. They naturally have some stretch to them — but when you sprain your ankle, the ligaments stretch too far or tear through.

Sprained ankles are often the result of a sudden twist or turn of the foot. And although they’re common among athletes, the truth is that they can happen to anyone.

A sprain can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of ligament damage. Symptoms of a sprained ankle include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected foot.

The risks of neglecting sprain treatment

If you think you’ve sprained your ankle, it’s important to seek professional treatment. Sprained ankles might be common, but just like any other injury, they require care to heal properly.

One of the most common complications of severe sprained ankles is chronic instability. When ligaments are injured and not adequately rehabilitated, they may not heal properly, leading to a weakened ankle joint.

Chronic instability develops over time, and it manifests as recurring episodes of your ankle "giving way." This issue makes your footing more unstable and puts you at higher risk of future sprains and other injuries.

How to prevent chronic ankle instability

Our team specializes in foot and ankle pain. We examine your injury and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms before diagnosing your condition. Depending on the severity of your sprain, we may recommend a combination of treatments, like:

Follow the RICE method

Immediately following a sprain, we usually prescribe the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Resting your injured ankle allows the ligaments to heal, while applying ice, compression, and elevation help reduce swelling and pain.

Participate in physical therapy

If your sprain is severe, a physical therapy program can accelerate healing and help you avoid chronic ankle instability. Your physical therapist guides you through a series of customized exercises that strengthen the muscles around your ankle and improve joint stability.

Along with your physical therapy sessions, we give you exercises to do at home. This targeted approach helps restore functionality and reduces your risk of future sprains.

Consider ankle bracing

We might recommend wearing an ankle brace or support during recovery, particularly if you’re getting back into athletics. These supportive devices add stability, help prevent excessive movement, and reduce your risk of reinjury.

Gradually return to activity

Remember that healing takes time. Rushing back into physical activity too soon after a sprained ankle can exacerbate your injury and increase the likelihood of chronic instability. Instead, it’s important to follow your recommended recovery timeline and gradually reintroduce activity.

We work with you to create a plan that’s appropriate for your situation. And even after your initial recovery, you should continue exercises that maintain your ankle strength and flexibility.

A sprained ankle is more than just a momentary inconvenience — it could put your mobility at risk. Don't let a sprained ankle become a persistent issue. Start the journey to a strong and stable recovery at A+ Athlete Sports Medicine.

Call our offices in Neptune or Robbinsville, New Jersey, or request your first appointment online now.