Our team of experienced orthopedic physicians at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute are able to provide you with a wide range of treatment options for managing and overcoming ankle instability. We tailor treatment to your unique situation, so we take time to speak with you about your specific injury and medical history. Once we have determined the cause, we work with you to come up with the best physical therapy, exercise therapy, medication, or surgical plan for your condition. Our primary goal is to get you back to your regular activities and to prevent future injuries long-term.
What is an ankle sprain?
A sprain occurs when the ankle is moved in an unnatural way, causing the ligaments that support the ankle to stretch beyond their natural capacity. A sprain is a common injury, especially among athletes, and can sometimes heal on its own when the sprain is mild. Cases where the sprain is more severe may require surgery by an orthopedic specialist.
What is ankle instability?
When a sprained ankle does not fully or properly heal, it can cause ongoing instability and other long-term problems including arthritis. In these cases, it is more likely to become injured again. You may have trouble performing sports, standing for long periods of time, or balancing on the affected ankle.
What are the causes?
A sprain can occur any time the foot, leg, or ankle is moved in a way that is unnatural, which strains the ligaments that support the area. If you suffer from chronic ankle instability, you may be more prone to sprains. There are multiple types of sprains, including inversion and eversion sprains:
- Inversion sprains – These kinds of sprains occur when the ankle is rolled outward and the foot turns under the body. This is the most common type of ankle sprain and causes injury to the ligaments found in the outer portion of the ankle.
- Eversion sprains – Alternatively, this type of sprain is less common and occurs when the ankle rolls inward and the foot turns outward, away from the body. This damages the ligaments found on the inside of the ankle.
Sprains can be caused by:
- A fall that causes unnatural twisting
- Jumping and landing on the foot or ankle incorrectly
- Walking, running, or exercising on an uneven surface
What are the symptoms?
Below are common symptoms:
- Ankle swelling
- Bruising, discoloration, or swelling around the ankle
- Pain when putting pressure or standing on the involved leg
- Inability to move the ankle joint
- “Pop” or “crunch” sound at the time of injury
Additionally, the following are indications that you may be suffering from ankle instability, which should be evaluated by one of our orthopedic specialists and treated when needed:
- Repeated ankle sprains
- Feeling that your ankle “gives out” when walking or running
- Inability to move the joint with full range of motion
- Pain that persists long after a sprain or ankle injury
How is it diagnosed?
You should speak with a foot and ankle specialist at the first signs of a sprain. MedStar Orthopaedic Institute is home to experts in a wide range of ankle conditions who have years of experience evaluating, diagnosing, and treating sprains. Your ankle exam will likely include the following:
- Medical history evaluation – Your physician will discuss your medical history with you and any relevant prior ankle problems.
- Physical exam – A doctor will evaluate the affected area and may ask you questions about where you are feeling pain or discomfort.
- Imaging tests – Your orthopedist will also likely conduct imaging studies to rule out a fracture and accurately diagnose your condition.
What are the treatment options?
If you are experiencing an ankle sprain that is mild and is not a recurring injury, you may use one or more of the following conservative treatment options at home to help heal on its own:
- Ice to decrease swelling and pain
- Avoiding activities that cause pain or pressure
- Ankle bandage to compress the it and add support
- Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling
- Elevating it to reduce swelling (especially while sleeping)
When conservative options fail, or when a sprain is recurring or more severe, MedStar Orthopaedic Institute offers diagnostic testing, as well as a wide variety of treatments options. Depending on the severity of your ankle condition and the complexity of the injury, our specialists may recommend any of the following minimally invasive surgical options:
- Foot and ankle arthroscopy
- Foot and ankle fracture surgery
- Foot and ankle tendon repair and reconstruction
If you believe you may be suffering from an ankle sprain or instability, call 202-295-0511 to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute. Our doctors have years of experience diagnosing and treating these conditions and are pleased to offer comprehensive care in the Washington, D.C. area.