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How to Prevent an Ankle Sprain From Becoming a Chronic Instability

How to Prevent an Ankle Sprain From Becoming a Chronic Instability

Landing badly after a jump, stepping awkwardly on a curb, negotiating uneven terrain — these are all simple, everyday occurrences in which millions of Americans come out the other side with an ankle sprain. 

Each year in the United States, two million people sprain an ankle, which can present a bit of an inconvenience. For the 70% of people who develop ongoing physical issues after a sprain, including chronic ankle instability, the inconvenience can quickly turn into a long, frustrating struggle.

At Western Orthopaedics, our team of skilled musculoskeletal specialists has no small amount of experience helping our patients with foot and ankle issues, including ankle sprains. Our goal is to not only help with the initial injury, but to prevent the sprain from becoming an ongoing problem that dogs you for the rest of your life.

Explaining an ankle sprain

We bandy about the term, “sprained ankle,” quite a bit, but let’s take a look at exactly what occurs when you sprain an ankle. Any sprain occurs when a ligament is pulled too hard, causing it to stretch and/or tear.

About 90% of ankle sprains are what we call inversion injuries — they occur when your foot rolls to the inside. As a result of this rolling in, the lateral ligaments that support the outside of your ankle are stretched beyond their limits.

As a result, three grades of an ankle sprain can occur:

As you can imagine, with each ascending grade, the more potential there is for complications, namely chronic ankle instability.

What is chronic ankle instability?

As the name so aptly suggests, chronic ankle instability means the ligaments in your ankle aren’t supporting the joint well because they didn’t heal properly after the initial injury.

In most cases, chronic ankle instability occurs after a moderate-to-severe sprain or after repeated ankle sprains.

As a result of chronic ankle instability, you run into issues with:

Unfortunately, this problem often gets worse as it creates a vicious cycle of constantly rolling your ankle and creating more damage in the lateral ligaments.

Heal right the first time

As you can imagine, the biggest key to preventing chronic ankle instability is to make sure that you heal right the first time around. If you sprain an ankle and you still have swelling and discomfort after 24 hours, we urge you to come see us so we can take a look.

After we evaluate the damage to your ligaments, we come up with a plan of action for encouraging your ankle to heal correctly. For example, we might suggest taking the weight off the joint with crutches to allow time for the ligaments to heal.

Physical therapy also plays an important role in these efforts, as we strengthen your ankle joint to eliminate some of the pressure on your damaged ligaments.

We can’t say here what your particular treatment would entail, but we can promise that whatever we recommend will go a long way toward getting your ankle to heal correctly. And this, in turn, can help in preventing chronic ankle instability.


For expert care of your sprained ankle, please contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to schedule an appointment.

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