Quick Facts on Ankle Instability
You’ve probably seen one of those tall inflatable figures that flop over and then straighten upright again. They are often used along a busy street to advertise a business. That “loosey goosey” action could be compared to the feeling you have with chronic ankle instability: the joint just seems to give way until you remove weight from it and straighten it again. Here are some quick facts about this condition:
- It usually happens after a bad ankle sprain (or several slight ones)
- It is caused by weak ligaments in the ankle joint (from injury, genetics, or other conditions)
- It can lead to further sprains
- Sometimes conservative treatments can get the ankle back in shape
- Severely stretched or torn ligaments may need surgery for best results
Read on to find out more about this disabling and sometimes painful condition.
How to Know If Your Ankle is Unstable
The main symptom is the feeling that your joint is weak or wobbly. You can be walking along fine and then suddenly your leg feels like it is sliding sideways off your foot. This may be accompanied by a sharp pain as soft tissues around the joint are stretched too far and put up a protest. The area along the outside of your ankle may also be swollen and achy.
If you frequently turn your ankle when walking on uneven surfaces or playing sports, it is likely that your joint is unstable. However, there is a difference between a truly floppy, loose joint and something called “functional ankle instability.”
In the latter case, the joint may feel unstable, but the pain may instead be due to arthritis, a bone spur or lesion, or impingement (full range of motion is limited by bone or soft tissue abnormalities). That’s why an evaluation by foot experts like those at Aadvanced Foot Care Associates in New York is important, so you get treatment for the right problem.
Treatment for Weak Ankles
Our goal is always to explore conservative treatment options first to avoid unnecessary surgeries. That said, simply wrapping the ankle with an elastic bandage and taking pain pills will not do the trick. After a thorough evaluation, we can prescribe the right combination of bracing, pain relief methods, and exercises to strengthen and the soft tissues around the joint.
One thing you will need to work on is improving your ankle proprioception. This term simply means the way your brain and ankle work together to automatically make adjustments to keep the joint stable. One of the ways to improve this instinctive reaction is to balance on one foot, and when you can do that for a minute or more, do it with eyes closed, and then standing on a pillow. You can train your brain to automatically recognize little shifts in balance, and send messages to the muscles and tendons to correct for them without consciously thinking about it.
Do Your Wobbly Ankles Need Surgery?
Sometimes your ligaments just can’t recover their original length and strength after a sprain or injury, even with treatment. When that is so, you may need to consider having them corrected surgically to tighten them so they can hold the bones in place.
If you have chronic ankle pain and weakness, have your ankle evaluated by the foot doctors at Aadvanced Foot Care Associates in New York. With a full examination and any necessary tests, we can pinpoint the exact damage and reasons for it. If surgery is required, you have come to the right place! We have over 100 years of combined foot care know how and have collectively done thousands of surgeries.
Trust your foot care to us by calling one of our three offices in Queens—Rego Park (718) 896-4433, Plainview (516) 822-9595, or Flushing (718) 969-2266—to set up your appointment. If you prefer, you can use our online contact form to request one.