An Inside Look Lateral Ankle Instability
Updated: Feb 26
Lateral ankle instability, be it acute or chronic, is considered a highly complex condition to treat due to the foot areas affected. Regardless of the seriousness of the instability, the condition can be defined as either functional or mechanical.
Mechanical instability can be detected or observed radiographically or by using the anterior drawer test. Mechanical instability is often characterized when the lateral side of the ankle exceeds the normal physiological limits of motion.
Functional instability, however; is a chronic condition that involves the outer side of the ankle( lateral) repeatedly giving way. When this occurs, it signifies the loss of neuromuscular or sensorimotor control and can not be observed radiographically or by using the anterior drawer test. Hence, making it a difficult condition to treat.
Chronic lateral ankle instability condition is often caused by severe inversion injury and/ or repeated ankle sprains. Repeated ankle sprains injure or damage the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL), anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) and/or the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL).
Immediately after an ankle sprain, important functions such as postural control, strength and muscle reaction time are often affected negatively. In light of the Chronic lateral ankle instability, performing simple tasks such as standing or walking can result in the lateral side giving way.
Let us take a deeper look at what causes the development of either acute or chronic lateral ankle instability.
Acute lateral ankle instability often occurs after an acute injury that is conservatively treated and cared for until it heals. However, chronic lateral ankle instability, as previously mentioned, has the potential to develop through repeated injuries or ankle sprains. If an ankle sprain or injury is left untreated, it increases the risk of another ankle sprain occurrence, leading to the development of chronic lateral ankle instability.
This is because, when you first sprain your ankle, the ligaments in that area are damaged and torn. Once the connecting tissues are affected, one loses his/her ability to balance normally, which then leads to another ankle sprain. The more the injuries, the more the instability and damage.
However, by visiting a podiatrist and having the affected area rehabilitated, the ligaments can be retrained and the ankle muscles strengthened. Hence, ensuring the healing of your ankle and curbing the development of chronic lateral ankle instability.
Now, when it comes to treating such a serious condition, seeking out top podiatrists is imperative. You want to visit a podiatrist that is certified, trained and highly qualified in the field of podiatry to ensure the future health of your ankle. The team at Treasure Valley Foot + Ankle can help.
Getting diagnosed is often the first step in prevention and treatment. If you suspect that you suffer from either acute or chronic lateral ankle instability, it is essential that you go to a podiatrist for diagnosis. Below are some of the signs of chronic ankle lateral instability:
- Pain in the lateral side of the ankle
- Chronic swelling
- Instability of the ankle
- The ankle keeps giving way or turning
A podiatrist often examines the history of the health of your ankle, including previous ankle sprains or injuries. In addition to examining the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, podiatrists carry out imagery tests to help properly diagnose the condition.
The type of treatment used will depend on the level of injury, be it acute or chronic. The level of activity is another factor that dictates the type of treatment that is suitable for the level of damage.
Notably, there are two main types of treatment. They include non-surgical and surgical treatment. Below are the non- surgical treatment often used to treat lateral ankle instability.
Bracing: Bracing is often the initial form of treatment and falls under the conservative category. It is commonly used in advancing the healing process of damaged ligaments caused by an acute lateral ankle sprain. Other than promoting healing, braces help prevent future injuries, provide support and prevent the ankle from turning.
Physical therapy: This is a form of rehabilitation that works on strengthening and retraining the damaged or injured muscles and tissues. Physical therapy does involve various forms of treatments, which collectively work towards healing the lateral ankle and regaining balance.
Medications: Medications often prescribed by podiatrists are primarily to help treat inflammation in the affected area, as well as pain. Commonly used and most highly recommended and effective drugs are the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Podiatrists often consider surgical treatment when and if the non- surgical forms of treatment are ineffective. The type of surgical procedure is dictated by the severity of the lateral ankle damage, level of activity as well as the degree of instability.
Regardless of the form of treatment, early mechanical or functional rehabilitation or treatment shortens your recovery period. In other words, having the condition diagnosed and treated early can help the improve recovery time and ability of the injured lateral ankle. Hence, if you suspect any damage to your lateral ankle, do not delay to have it treated.
Now, can lateral ankle instability be prevented? Who is most at risk of developing the condition?
As previously mentioned, lateral ankle instability is caused by ankle sprains, which is a common injury that occurs among athletic individuals. Hence, highly athletic individual, as well as military service-members, are most at risk of developing chronic lateral ankle instability. Below are the top highlighted ways of preventing lateral ankle injuries, especially among athletic individuals.
The combined neuromuscular and proprioceptive training program
Prophylactic bracing Early diagnosis
In conclusion, it is essential that you maintain regular visits to ensure that your Podiatrist keeps an eye of the health of your ankle. At Wasatch Foot and Ankle Institute located in Ogden and Farmington Utah, we put the needs and health of our clients first. Our seasoned and well-trained Podiatrist will help secure the health of your ankle as well as properly rehabilitate it for effective healing.