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How to Keep an Ankle Sprain From Becoming Chronic Instability

Unfortunately, sprained ankles are a fact of life. In fact, 30% of sports medicine injuries are ankle sprains, making them the most common musculoskeletal injury. What’s more? Many ankle sprains aren’t treated by doctors, meaning thousands of more ankle sprains occur each year. 

When ankle sprains don’t heal correctly, chronic instability in your ankle can result. This condition can cause chronic swelling, inflammation, and pain. 

At South Denver Podiatry, board-certified podiatrist Karolina Varnay, DPM, offers a full line of podiatric services to treat many types of foot and ankle issues, including ankle sprains. Dr. Varnay also believes in the power of patient education. 

That’s why our team put together this informative guide about keeping an ankle sprain from becoming chronic instability. Read on to learn more!

What are ankle sprains?

Your ankle is a complex joint made up of three main bones held together with ligaments and tendons. These elements work together in the ankle joint to help you move, but even slight displacements in the joint, like those that happen when you roll or twist your ankle, can result in injury.

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments in your ankle are injured. There are three types of ankle sprains: Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III, which is the most severe. The grade classifications describe both the damage to your ligaments as well as how they impact your ability to function.

It’s important to have your ankle evaluated by experienced providers. Dr. Varnay and the team at South Denver Podiatry work to ensure fast and effective treatment and to prevent complications, like chronic instability.  

What is chronic instability?

Chronic ankle instability describes a condition in which the foot frequently “gives way” and rolls inward. It typically occurs as the result of a sprained ankle. In fact, approximately 20% of people with acute ankle sprains also develop chronic ankle instability. 

At South Denver Podiatry, Dr. Varnay regularly helps treat patients with chronic instability. If you develop chronic instability, you may experience:

Having chronic ankle instability makes you more likely to resprain your ankle — even when not engaging in high-risk activities, like sports. Walking on uneven surfaces, like gravel pathways or hiking trails, are especially risky for people with chronic instability.

How can I prevent chronic instability?

The best way to keep an ankle sprain from becoming chronic instability is to immediately seek treatment for  it. The more severe your sprain, the more likely chronic instability results; however, even repeated Grade I sprains can lead to this chronic condition.

Dr. Varnay assesses your injury and creates a customized treatment based on your unique injury and symptoms. While you wait for your appointment, take precautions to prevent chronic instability from developing. 

Stop using the injured ankle as soon as it’s hurt. Apply the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation while you schedule your appointment with an experienced provider. 

If the sprain is severe, try to get immediate care. If you visit the emergency room, be sure to follow up with a specialist to get individualized treatment and prevent future complications. 

As you recover, follow your doctor’s advice, which lowers your chances of developing an instability after the sprain. Your path to full recovery and prevention of chronic instability may include wearing a brace or the use of crutches, physical therapy, continued ankle exercises, and regular follow-up visits. 

If you’ve recently suffered an ankle injury, don’t wait to seek medical care. You can contact South Denver Podiatry by calling 720-279-8077.

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