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Chronic Ankle Instability


Chronic ankle instability is a condition characterized by a recurring “giving way” of the outer (lateral) side of the ankle. This condition often develops after repeated ankle sprains. Usually the “giving way” occurs while walking or doing other activities especially on uneven surface, but it can also happen when you’re just standing. Many athletes, as well as others, suffer from chronic ankle instability.

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People with chronic ankle instability often complain of:


  • A repeated turning of the ankle, especially on uneven surfaces or when participating in sports
  • Persistent (chronic) discomfort and swelling
  • Pain or tenderness


Chronic 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. The ability to balance is often affected. Proper rehabilitation is needed to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and “retrain” the tissues within the ankle that affect balance.


Evaluation and Diagnosis


If your ankle feels wobbly or unstable and gives way repeatedly, or if you’ve had recurring ankle sprains, see a foot and ankle surgeon to have your condition evaluated and treated. Chronic ankle instability that is left untreated leads to continued instability, activity limitations, arthritis, and tendon problems.


any previous ankle injuries and instability. Then he or she will examine your ankle to check for tender areas, signs of swelling, in your ankle. X-rays, or MRIs may be helpful in further evaluating the ankle.


Non-surgical treatment may include:


Physical therapy. Physical therapy involves various treatments and exercises to strengthen the ankle, improve balance and range of motion, and retrain your muscles.


Wear an ankle brace to gain support for the ankle and keep the ankle from turning. Bracing also helps prevent additional ankle sprains.


Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cold compress, may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.

Treatment Options


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. Treatment will depend on the final diagnosis and should be personalized to your individual needs. Both conservative (nonoperative) and surgical treatment methods may be used. Conservative treatments include:


Anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce swelling. Physical therapy, including wobblc-board exercises, directed at strengthening the muscles, restoring range of motion, and increasing your perception of joint position


  • An ankle brace or other support
  • An injection of a steroid


In the case of a fracture, immobilization to allow the bone to heal. If your condition requires it, or if conservative treatment doesn’t bring relief, your doctor may recommend surgery. Many surgical procedures can be done on an outpatient basis. Some procedures use arthroscopic techniques; other require open surgery. Rehabilitation may take 6 to 10 weeks to ensure proper healing. Surgical treatment options include:


  • Removing (excising) loose fragments
  • Cleaning (debriding) the joint or joint surface
  • Repairing or reconstructing the ligaments or transferring tendons
  • Prevention
  • Almost half of all people who sprain their ankle once will experience additional ankle sprains and chronic pain.


You can help prevent chronic pain from developing by following these simple steps:


Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and complete the prescribed physical rehabilitation program.


Do not return to activity until cleared by your sports surgeon and physiotherapist.