NYC Foot & Ankle Center
NYC Foot & Ankle Center

Prevent Your Sprained Ankle From Becoming a Chronic Instability

Mar 22, 2024
Prevent Your Sprained Ankle From Becoming a Chronic Instability

Sprained ankles are one of the most common injuries both on the playing field and off. If you’ve sprained your ankle, you need these tips to help prevent your sprained ankle from becoming chronically unstable.

Ankle sprains are a common injury with more than two million diagnosed each year in the United States. However, the actual number may be even higher if you factor in the ankle sprains that aren’t reported. Some researchers believe the actual incidence may be as much as 5.5 times higher than what’s reported.

Untreated and unreported ankle sprains are particularly harmful because untreated ankle sprains can contribute to chronic ankle instability. 

Our podiatric team here at NYC Foot & Ankle Center treats a variety of injuries, including ankle injuries, so if you’re struggling with ankle pain, don’t hesitate to visit us here in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood of the Upper West Side.

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about ankle instability and how you can prevent it after a sprain. 

What happens when you sprain your ankle?

A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that support your ankle joint are stretched or torn. Sprains usually happen as a result of suddenly twisting or rolling your ankle. 

The severity of a sprained ankle can vary 一 ranging from grade 1 (mild) to grade 3 (severe) 一 but all cases require prompt and appropriate care to avoid complications.

Depending on whether your sprain is mild or severe, you may experience pain, swelling, bruising, or an inability to put weight on your ankle.

What does ankle instability mean?

Chronic ankle instability refers to a persistent condition characterized by recurrent episodes of ankle rolling, instability, and discomfort. These moments stem from incomplete healing or insufficient rehabilitation after a sprained ankle. 

How to prevent chronic ankle instability 

You can reduce your risk of ankle instability by keeping these tips in mind: 

Follow the RICE protocol

When you first sprain your ankle, it's crucial to follow the RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression, and elevation:

  • Rest your ankle and avoid putting weight on it
  • Apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours to reduce swelling
  • Use a compression bandage to minimize swelling 
  • Elevate your ankle above heart level to reduce swelling

If you were injured while playing a sport or running, remove yourself safely from the field and apply the protocol if possible. Many first-aid kits contain single-use ice packs which can help with both pain and swelling. 

Seek medical care right away and follow your treatment plan

Even though you can administer the RICE protocol at home, it’s still important to seek medical treatment for your injury. NYC Foot & Ankle Center can verify the source of your symptoms. Sometimes fractures and sprains can occur at the same time, but diagnostic imaging and a physical exam can confirm the extent of your injuries. 

Our team can assess the severity of your sprain and provide appropriate treatment, which may include immobilization with a brace, crutches, or physical therapy. The more carefully you adhere to your treatment plan, the less likely you’ll develop ankle instability later on.

Stay diligent with your rehabilitation program

To prevent chronic instability, follow a structured rehabilitation program. Physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles around your ankle, improve flexibility, and enhance your ankle stability. 

Common ankle exercises may include:

  • Range of motion exercises like ankle circles 
  • Strengthening exercises to target the muscles that support your ankle joint
  • Balance exercises

As your ankle heals, it’s important to return to activity slowly and safely. Pushing yourself too far too fast can exacerbate your symptoms and compromise your healing.

As you return to exercise and/or sports activities, consider using an ankle support such as a brace or wrap during physical activities to provide extra stability and reduce your risk of re-spraining. 

Consider extracorporeal shockwave therapy

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is often seen as a treatment for plantar fasciitis, but it’s not limited to one condition. This therapy can also help reduce pain and ankle instability. Studies have shown it can help improve ankle function and range of motion. 

Consider the benefits of surgery

Not all sprained ankles require surgery, but if your sprain is severe and compromises the integrity of your ankle, our team may recommend surgery. When possible, our surgeons utilize minimally invasive techniques.

Get the right care for your ankle sprain

You might not think much about your ankle until it hurts, and when you’ve got a sprain, it’s hard to think about anything else. We’ve got you covered though. Getting the right care for your sprained ankle can go a long way in helping reduce your risk of future ankle instability.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and explore your nonsurgical and surgical options for treating your sprained ankle. You can call our office or utilize our online booking tool.