How To Keep a Sprained Ankle From Becoming a Chronic Instability

You’re walking along, everything is fine, and then you feel it. That nasty little twist, the feeling of your foot turning unnaturally, followed by pain. Maybe you stepped off a curb wrong, or in a hole, or a rock turned under your foot — whatever happened, the result is a sprained ankle.


The standard treatment for a sprained ankle is one you probably know: 

The classic RICE treatment is usually the best approach to dealing with a sprain, along with time. But sometimes, for some people RICE isn’t enough, and the ankle doesn’t heal completely. Then, you’re at risk of another sprain.

Multiple sprains make you more susceptible to chronic instability.

Chronic instability

If your ankle is chronically unstable, it often gives out unexpectedly. It could be while you’re walking or even when you’re just standing still. 

Having an ankle that you can’t trust is problematic. You may not feel comfortable putting any weight on it, which limits your mobility. 

When to seek treatment

If your sprain doesn’t seem too bad, you might not think about getting treatment. However, if it still feels tender, or you worry that it’s going to give way even after using the RICE approach for about two weeks, you should make an appointment to see Dr. Kerry Berg at Intermountain Foot & Ankle Associates in Colorado Springs. 

You may have injured the bones and soft tissues in your ankle in a way that doesn’t respond to RICE. You may need rehabilitation in order for the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in your ankle to recover. 

You might be thinking that rehabilitation for a sprained ankle is a bit much. But, if the ligaments in your ankle are stretched, you’re risking additional sprains and the development of chronic instability. Rehab allows your ankle to heal and helps you regain strength.

Dr. Berg may also suggest bracing as your ankle heals. Bracing can provide support, prevent additional sprains, and give you time to strengthen your ankle. 

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications could be an option if your ankle is swollen.

Depending on your situation and the specific causes of your chronic instability, surgery may be the best treatment option. If your ligaments are completely torn, they may not grow back together properly, or if they are overstretched and won’t heal correctly, surgery may be the best choice. 

Long-term consequences 

If your ankle is unstable for a long time, you may begin to have problems with balance and muscle coordination. Rehabilitation alone or in conjunction with surgery can help.

The sooner you can return to your normal activities without fear of further injury the better. One study found that beginning rehabilitation two to three weeks following surgery at the latest leads to the best outcomes. 

If you sprain your ankle more often than seems normal, consider booking an appointment for an evaluation. Dr. Berg provides thorough, individualized care, so you can expect her to suggest treatments that are appropriate for you and your unique circumstances. 

You can schedule using our easy online tool at any time, or give us a call between 8:30am and 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. 

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