Ankle instability is a chronic condition that usually results from repeated ankle sprains. It is characterized by a recurrent slipping of the outer side of the ankle. It is generally noticed during movement of the ankle joint but can also occur during standing.
Repetitive injury of the ankle ligaments on one side of the ankle is the most common cause of ankle instability. Inadequate healing of the sprained ligament or incomplete rehabilitation of the affected ligament can result in instability of the ankle. Recurrent injury of the ligaments further weakens them and aggravates the instability which predisposes to the development of additional ankle problems.
Pain, swelling and tenderness and persistent discomfort of the ankle are symptoms of ankle instability. The ankle is unstable and may turn repeatedly while walking on uneven surfaces or during a sporting activity.
A complete medical history, including a history of any previous ankle injuries, and a physical examination is essential for an accurate diagnosis of the condition. An X-ray, or MRI may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.
The management of ankle instability depends on the findings of physical examination and the activity level of the patient.
Conservative treatment includes physical therapy for improving the strength, balance and range of motion of the joint, bracing to support the affected ankle and prevent further sprain, and non-steroidal anti- inflammatory (NASAIDs) to reduce the pain and inflammation.
Surgery is recommended in patients with a high degree of instability and in those who have failed to respond to non-surgical treatments. Commonly used surgical procedures involve repair or reconstruction of the damaged ligament.