How to Keep a Sprained Ankle from Becoming a Chronic Instability

An ankle sprain is a common type of orthopedic injury, especially among athletes at all levels. However, if your sprain doesn’t heal properly, your risk for chronic instability and other complications can increase significantly.


At Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic in Sandy and Highland, Utah, double board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon Scott Shelton, DPM, offers diagnostic testing and treatment services for sprains and other types of ankle conditions.


With Dr. Shelton’s help, your ankle sprain can heal fully, so you can avoid unnecessary pain and the need for ankle surgery.


Understanding ankle sprains


An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments around your ankle joint stretch too far. If the sprain is severe, the ligaments can tear away from the joint.


Ankle sprains are a common side effect of sports injuries, but you can also experience a sprain stepping down off a curb in an awkward way.


At the time of your injury or soon after, you can develop symptoms of a sprain, including:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of range of motion in the ankle joint

You may also notice that you can’t bear any weight on the affected ankle, so walking becomes difficult.


Ideally, you should tend to an ankle sprain right away. We recommend that you follow the R.I.C.E. method: rest, apply ice, compression, and elevation. This technique minimizes swelling and prevents additional injury to the ligaments.


How sprains lead to instability


Chronic instability means that your ankle joint gives out during physical activity. Instability in the joint can also occur when you’re not moving. You may feel like your ankle is unstable and unable to handle any amount of weight you put on the joint.


Sprains increase your risk for chronic instability when they aren’t healed properly. If you engage in physical activity before a sprain fully heals, your ligaments become weaker and can no longer hold your ankle joint in position.


Every time your ankle joint rolls, it further damages your ligaments and can create a vicious cycle of pain and immobility.


Preventing chronic instability in your ankle joint


To lower your risk for chronic instability in your ankle, you should be proactive about preventing sprains. Here are some tips to consider:


Don’t forget warm-up exercises


If you play sports, run, or participate in other activities that involve your ankle joint, be sure to give yourself plenty of warm-up time and do exercises that keep the ligaments in your ankle flexible.


Dr. Shelton can also show you specific exercises that target your ankle joint, so you can strengthen your muscles and increase the flexibility of your ligaments.


Choose the right footwear


Always opt for shoes that support your foot and ankle to prevent accidental ankle sprains. If you have high or low arches, you may need to wear shoe inserts or other orthotics that ensure a good fit.


If you play sports, we can recommend the right type of footwear for your chosen sport because not all shoes offer the same level of support.


Watch where you walk


If you walk or run to stay physically fit, be careful where you go. Avoid uneven surfaces, rocky trails, and other terrains that increase your risk for falls.


Stop at the first twinge of pain


Any time you feel tenderness or pain in your ankle, stop and rest. Continuing your normal activities puts you at risk for sprains and other injuries.


You should also meet with Dr. Shelton for a physical evaluation, especially if your symptoms continue with home care. We offer comprehensive ankle evaluations in-office, so you get the answers you need without delay.


Call the Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic near you to schedule a consultation for ankle sprain symptoms or book an appointment online today.


If you do not see your insurance provider, contact our office.



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