An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue – like rubber bands – that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting the side to side movement.
Causes of ankle instability:
The ankle is held together by three main ligaments. The two outer ligaments stop the ankle sliding forward and rolling from side to side. They are attached to the fibula (the small bone next to the shinbone) and the talus (the anklebone).
When the ankle is violently twisted or forced beyond its normal range of movement, the ligaments can easily become stretched or torn. This is known as an“ankle sprain”.
If your ankle doesn’t heal properly after a sprain, or you sprain your ankle repeatedly, you may end up with chronic ankle instability. The resultant constant swelling in the ankle can cause a reflex in the body that ‘switches off’ the muscles around the joint, which reduces the ankle stability even more.
If the ankle does not respond to non-surgical treatment (orthotics, supportive footwear or physiotherapy), surgery is recommended to help improve the ankle instability.
Symptoms of ankle instability:
The sensation that your ankle is going to give way, especially on uneven ground is a common sign of ankle instability. Your ankle will frequently turn during activity, causing pain, inflammation and swelling. Ankle instability can cause almost constant swelling in the ankle.
- Pain and soreness
- Difficulty walking
- Stiffness in the joint
Diagnosing ankle instability:
To help diagnose ankle instability an x-ray will be recommended to rule out a fracture of the ankle bones. Putting stress directly on the ankle ligaments ascertains if the ankle has become unstable; it can also help to show if a ligament has been torn.
In evaluating your injury, the specialist will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your ankle. X-rays or other advanced imaging studies may be requested to help determine the severity of the injury.
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