Chronic Ankle Instability

What Is Chronic Ankle Instability?
This condition is characterized by the outer side of the ankle "giving way" recurrently. It usually develops after the patient has sustained repeated ankle sprains. Most often, this giving way occurs when the patient is walking or performing other more strenuous activities, but is can also happen while the patient is simply standing. Patients with chronic ankle instability usually complain of:

  • A repeated turning of the ankle, especially when navigating uneven terrain or when participating in sports.
  • Chronic discomfort and swelling.
  • Pain or tenderness. 

What Causes Chronic Ankle Instability?
Usually, chronic ankle instability starts after the patient has suffered an ankle sprain that hasn't properly healed, or repeated ankle sprains. Have an unstable ankle also increases the chance that you'll have an ankle sprain, so it can turn into a vicious cycle. Each sprain leads to continual weakening of the ankle's ligaments, resulting in a much higher likelihood of having additional problems with the ankle.

Evaluation and Diagnosis
If your ankle feels wobbly or unsteady and gives way repeatedly, or if you've had recurring ankle sprains, you should consult with your podiatrist to be evaluated and treated. Chronic ankle instability, if left untended, can lead to continued instability, activity limitations, arthritis, and tendon problems. During the examination, your podiatrist will ask you about any previous injuries to your ankle, as well as any instability. Then, your ankle will be evaluated for tender areas, signs of swelling, and instability. The doctor may also order X-Rays, CT scans, or MRIs to further evaluate your ankle.