What causes chronic ankle instability? Why do I feel unstable in my ankle?

Chronic Ankle Instabilty, Insights from a Podiatrist

Chronic ankle instability is a long term complication of a lateral ankle sprain or more commonly multiple ankle sprains that are not managed well. Chronic ankle instability occurs when the lateral ankle ligaments are torn, damaged or stretched. Your podiatrist at The Foot Clinic Point Cook will assess the level of damage in both the acute phases of an ankle sprain as well as the more chronic phases. Assessing the amount of damage resultant from an ankle sprain or a rolled ankle is a thorough set of tests involving both clinical tests as well as imaging such as x-rays and ultrasounds to determine the involvement and the level of involvement of each lateral ankle ligament.

Lateral ankle sprains usually happen for the first time during sports, however if the ankle ligaments lose integrity. Ankle sprains can start to happen in less obvious places such as walking over rough ground or while walking. This is caused by chronic lateral ankle instability and can be a limitation to performance in sport or be a cause of consistent pain.

Management of chronic lateral ankle pain and instability should focus around the principles of:

1. Offloading force through the area – reducing the force through the lateral ankle ligaments can reduce in an increase in healing and a decrease in pain almost instantly. This can be done through a range of padding or strapping techniques a well as permanent orthotic devices.

2. Increasing strength – Strengthening the muscles that protect against ankle sprains can prevent any pain or feelings of unsteadiness as the muscles are more equipped to prevent the ankle from rolling and preventing any further damage. Often once the feeling of ankle pain is decreased during day to day activity such as work and walking rehabilitative exercises are increased in intensity to gradually incorporate running, jumping and side to side movements such as cutting.

3. Improving proprioception – Proprioception is your ankle knowing where it is in comparison to your body. One of the big issues with ankle sprains and following period of rest is the ankle can damage the structures that are important to the ankle to control itself in a normal way.

Although ankle sprains are relatively common in sport, they are complex injuries that involve many structures and can cause long term problems if not managed properly.

If you have chronic ankle pain or instability call our friendly Podiatrists or book online for an initial consult.