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Repeated Sprained Ankles Can Mean Chronic Ankle Instability

It’s likely that you have sprained your ankle at some point. In the U.S., 25,000 individuals sprain their ankles each day!

Most injured individuals ignore an ankle sprain and, worse, return too quickly to normal activities. In fact, 45% of all athletic injuries are ankle sprains, and often the athletes go back into the game as soon as the pain is bearable.

An ankle sprain is actually over-stretching or tearing of the ligaments surrounding the outside ankle bones. The injury occurs when the foot turns to the side abruptly so the sole of the foot is facing the other leg. This abnormal movement stretches the outside ligament. If you have a sprained ankle you will know it – the joint and lower leg will hurt with the joint appearing swollen and bruised.

Often ankle sprains recur, resulting in a chronically unstable joint as well as a distorted gait and poor balance. When the ankle is unstable, the individual will have trouble exercising or will fear reinjury during a workout – this can lead to arthritis and weight gain. It’s an unhappy cycle!

Causes of Ankle Sprains

Sports activities often cause ankle sprains, whether professional or amateur, especially movements like jumping. Dancers often suffer from this sprain as can basketball players or athletes who step on the feet of their opponents.

But you don’t have to be an athlete to injure your ankle. Those who wear high heels or platform shoes are prone to sprained ankles. Walking on an uneven surface, being pulled while walking a dog or misjudging the step off a stair or curb can result in this painful injury.

Preventing Chronic Ankle Sprains

Preventing ankle sprains is the best way to try to avoid a chronic condition:

  • Always wear appropriate and well-fitting shoes for each activity.
  • Improve your balance with exercises. Try standing on one foot with your eyes closed; gradually increase the duration.
  • Strengthen the ankle muscles: Wrap a towel around your foot, then move the foot in all directions, in and out, up and down.
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch, especially those areas that will increase the flexibility of the hip, legs and torso.
  • Build up your exercise regimen carefully and slowly. Practice your skills and gradually increase both speed and duration.

Caring for a Sprained Ankle

Don’t try to “walk off” an injury. Stop your activity and don’t put weight on that foot. Follow the R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice the area, apply Compression and Elevate the leg.

If the pain or swelling persists for more than a day or two, please call Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM for a professional exam. We’ll check your injury carefully and treat it if necessary, including physical therapy to strengthen the joint.

Don’t Wait for Help with Chronic Ankle Sprains

Dr. Alexopoulos, board certified podiatrist can help with any type of foot or ankle injury, especially those that are sports-related or threaten to become chronic. Please call our Chicago office at (773) 561-8100 or request an appointment via the website. Don’t ignore a seriously sprained ankle – you’ll need help to get well and return to your normal activities.