Ankle instability is a chronic condition characterized by the recurrent slipping of the outer side of the ankle. It usually results from repeated ankle sprains, and is generally noticed during movement, but can also occur during standing as well.
Repetitive injury of the ankle ligaments is the most common cause of ankle instability, further weakening and aggravating the instability which predisposes to the development of additional ankle problems. Additionally, inadequate healing of the sprained ligament or incomplete rehabilitation of the affected ligament can also result in instability.
Pain is the most common symptom and is associated with swelling and tenderness of the ankle. The ankle is unstable and may turn repeatedly while walking on uneven surfaces or during a sporting activity.
A complete medical history, including a history of any previous ankle injuries, and a physical examination is essential for an accurate diagnosis of the condition. An X-ray may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Other imaging tests may also be used to evaluate the injury.
The management of ankle instability depends on the findings of the physical examination and your level of activity.
- Conservative treatment: Conservative treatment includes physical therapy for improving the strength, balance and range of motion of the joint, bracing to support the affected ankle and prevent further sprains, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- Surgical treatment: Surgery is recommended in patients with a high degree of instability and in those who have failed to respond to non-surgical treatments. Commonly used surgical procedures involve repair or reconstruction of the damaged ligament.