All it takes is one harmless misstep to leave you with a sprained ankle. While it’s one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in people of all ages, it can lead to permanent damage if you aren’t careful.

Chronic ankle instability is a condition where the outer side of the ankle gives way, making the ankle unstable. It can happen after repeated ankle sprains.

What causes chronic ankle instability?

Chronic ankle instability commonly develops when an ankle sprain fails to heal adequately, or when the ankle is repeatedly sprained. When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments stretch, or even tear. These ligaments are important for keeping your ankle stable when you move.

Proper rehabilitation strengthens the muscles around the ankle, allowing it to heal completely. When the ankle doesn’t heal properly, you’re more vulnerable to spraining it again.

Each sprain can weaken the structure of the ankle, causing chronic instability. Patients with chronic ankle instability experience:

  • Pain or tenderness
  • Weakness
  • Chronic swelling of the ankle

An estimated 20% of people who have an acute ankle sprain later develop chronic instability.

Managing ankle sprains

Ankle sprains vary in severity. A mild sprain may require a couple of weeks to heal, while a more severe sprain may need a few months of rehabilitation. The simple RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — helps to reduce swelling and pain immediately after you’ve sprained an ankle.

It’s a good idea to visit a physician to have your ankle evaluated. Our elite team of Foot and Ankle Specialists includes Dr. Lynette MahoneyDr. Raymond O’Hara, and Dr. Narendra Patel.

To recover fully, you need to restore normal range of motion to the ankle and strengthen the damaged ligaments and supporting muscles.

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, we offer comprehensive rehabilitation with our team of physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other specialists. The goal is to fully rehabilitate your ankle sprain and prevent sprains from happening in the future.

Nonsurgical treatment

combination of nonsurgical treatments that include physical therapy can relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of recurrent ankle sprains. Some nonsurgical treatments that can help include:

  • Exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle joint and muscles that keep the ankle stable and resist inversion.
  • Exercises to improve balance and support of the ankle
  • Ankle brace for support with daily activities and return to sports
  • Custom orthotics if recommended

Surgical treatment

If surgery is recommended, your provider determines which surgical approach is best for you.

Sprained ankles are common, especially in athletes, and the reinjury rate is high. If you’ve sprained your ankle, seeing a specialist is the best place to start.

To schedule an appointment with one of our foot and ankle specialists; Dr. Cahill, Dr. Mahoney, Dr. O’Hara or Dr. Patel contact Barrington Orthopedic Specialists at 847 285-4200. We have offices located in Buffalo GroveBartlettElk Grove Village, and Schaumburg. You can also request an appointment here on our website.