How to Ensure Your Sprained Ankle Doesn't Become a Chronic Instability

Sep 01, 2023
How to Ensure Your Sprained Ankle Doesn't Become a Chronic Instability
Sprain your ankle once, it could be a fluke. Sprain it twice, maybe it’s bad luck. Sprain it three times, and there’s a pattern that could lead to chronic ankle instability

When you sprain your ankle, even lightly, you do damage to the ligaments supporting the ankle joint. Repeated sprains are a sign of ankle instability, since increased laxity of the ligaments means you’re more likely to keep spraining your ankle over and over, causing more damage each time.

Board-certified podiatrist Dr. Babak Kosar, with offices in Northridge, Los Angeles, California, and Santa Clarita, California, has treated many cases of ankle pain due to sprains, and helped his patients avoid chronic ankle instability.

Ankle sprain basics

Some people refer to something absurdly simple as “as easy as spraining an ankle.” That’s because sprained ankles are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in the country. Just one step wrong on this small weight-bearing joint can spell disaster. 

That's not the end of the matter, however. Most people have no idea that spraining your ankle can lead to instability, which can lead to repeated sprains, and so on. In fact, up to 70% of people who have sprained their ankle end up with ongoing issues, including chronic ankle instability.

Ankle sprains mean the ligaments (tough bands of tissue that connect bone to bone inside the joint) can get stretched or even torn, causing immediate and severe symptoms such as: 

  • Pain, which worsens with any weight put on the foot
  • Extreme tenderness to the touch
  • Bruising and swelling around the ankle joint
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Instability of the ankle joint

You’ll know instantly when you sprain your ankle. In addition to the pain, you might hear a popping sound or feel a snapping sensation at the moment of injury.

Protecting your ankle from further trauma

To avoid chronic instability after an ankle injury, it’s critical to take action to protect your ligaments from additional damage and promote correct healing. Here’s what you should include in your ankle sprain recovery plan:

1. Start with RICE

The first step to ankle sprain treatment is to reduce swelling as quickly as possible. Use the RICE method:

  • Rest and stay off of your ankle
  • Ice your injury to reduce swelling and pain
  • Compress your ankle by wrapping it in an elastic bandage or compression sleeve
  • Elevate the injury above your heart (lie down and prop it on a pillow)

This strategy can help avoid additional injury to the ligaments while you contact your doctor for an appointment.

2. Seek help from a specialist

Without proper treatment, ligament issues can develop into serious and chronic problems. You might be tempted to just ‘walk it off” or just do at-home treatment, but ankle sprains typically fall into one of three grade categories, and you may not realize how bad your situation is at first. 

  • Grade 1 sprains mean there’s minimal ligament stretching, and no tearing
  • Grade 2 sprains mean there’s partial ligament tearing
  • Grade 3 sprains mean there’s full tearing or rupturing of one or more ligaments

We assess your foot and ankle to identify which ligaments have been impacted and how bad the damage is. Then we create a customized treatment strategy to ensure you heal properly and regain full range of motion while strengthening your ankle so you don’t sprain it again.

3. Don’t rush recovery

Even a mild ankle sprain can require up to a month of treatment and rehabilitation, and more severe sprains can require several months or longer to restore strength and range of motion in the area. Dr. Kosari may recommend an extended course of physical therapy, joint aspiration, corticosteroid injections, or a customized brace, splint, or orthotic to help stabilize your ankle while it heals. 

If you’ve suffered an ankle sprain, call our office for an appointment at 818-831-1000, or book online at either our Northridge or Santa Clarita location.