What is Chronic ankle instability?


Ankle instability occurs when the ankle gives way when performing sports or daily activities. This instability can lead to joint pain, swelling, inflammation and potentially damage to tendons and the joints/bones in and around the ankle which can lead to arthritis. Ankle instability is often the result of repeated/recurrent ankle sprains.

Ankle sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries, with a high incidence in physically active individuals. The recurrence rate of ankle sprain is high which is associated with the development of Ankle Instability. Repeated ankle sprains can cause and perpetuate ankle instability, which can then become chronic. Each subsequent sprain leads to further weakening (or stretching) of the ligaments, resulting in greater instability and the likelihood of developing additional problems in the ankle.

Ankle instability usually develops following an ankle sprain that has not adequately healed or was not rehabilitated completely. When you sprain your ankle, the connective tissues (ligaments) are stretched or torn. Proprioception, the awareness of joint position and movement, is greatly affected and the ability to balance is often impaired as well as decreased muscle strength in the ankle and foot. Proper rehabilitation is needed to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and retrain the tissues within the ankle that affect balance. Failure to do so may result in repeated ankle sprains and further instability of the ankle - Chronic ankle instability.

Common Symptoms

People with (chronic) ankle instability often complain of:

A repeated turning/rolling of the ankle
Persistent (chronic) discomfort and swelling
Pain or tenderness
The ankle feeling wobbly or unstable, especially on uneven surfaces

How can Physio help?

Treatment for chronic ankle instability is based on the results of the examination and tests, as well as on the patient’s level of activity.
Physiotherapy can help a patient work to develop strength and proprioception (balance) in their ankles to help rehabilitate and retrain the muscles and tissues in and around the ankles to improve stability.
Some patients may wear an ankle brace to gain support for the ankle and keep the ankle from rolling or feeling unstable. Bracing also helps prevent additional ankle sprains, but should be coupled with some strength and balance training to help retrain the unstable ankle.

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