Ankle sprains are common musculoskeletal injuries, especially among sportspersons and athletes. Lateral ankle sprains cause damage to the ligaments and other soft tissues of the foot.
Research suggests that there is a high recurrence of the issue. An estimated 20% of all ankle sprain issues convert into chronic ankle instability.
Chronic ankle instability is the giving away of the ankle or foot following incomplete or improper healing of an ankle sprain. The condition can be debilitating. Therefore, we shall discuss tips to prevent chronic ankle instability!
What Is Chronic Ankle Instability?
Chronic ankle instability is when someone has repeated spraining of their ankle. That can occur while walking, playing sports, traveling across surfaces that are uneven, or doing other physical activity. You might notice a wobbliness in the ankle joint and frequently find the lateral side of the ankle to feel loose. Consistent pain and swelling are common characteristics of chronic ankle instability.
The instability arises when an ankle sprain does not fully heal, and the ankle's soft tissues and ligaments are not as strong and healthy as they were before. That compromises your ability to balance yourself. Every time you sprain your ankle, it further weakens your ligaments and puts you at risk of developing further ankle problems.
Sprains cause overstretching of the ligaments, which develop microtears. The ligaments are crucial in stabilizing the foot during movement. Torn and weak soft tissues that have not entirely healed and strengthened increase the propensity of ankle twisting, leading to getting multiple ankle sprains and further injury.
Symptoms of Chronic Ankle Instability
Patients with ankle instability often complain of having an unstable foot that wobbles a lot. The following symptoms are often seen in chronic ankle instability patients:
- Pain on walking
- Tenderness on the ankle region
- Repeated ankle turning and twisting (the lateral side of the foot is more affected)
- Inability to walk properly on surfaces that are uneven
- Unstable and wobbly foot
How To Prevent Recurrent Ankle Sprains and Chronic Ankle Instability?
Ankle instability can hinder you from engaging in day-to-day tasks and sports activities. As it typically results from an inadequately healed ankle sprain, giving your ankle adequate rest is vital. Improper rehabilitation often culminates in permanent damage to the foot's ligaments.
Repeated ankle sprains can render your foot muscles weak and unstable. Therefore, the most important point in preventing chronic ankle instability is allowing proper recovery from ankle sprains.
You should take sufficient rest following the first sprain so that the damaged ligaments that help you balance can properly heal. Avoiding additional pressure on the affected ankle is pivotal. Applying ice and elevating the ankle can alleviate symptoms like swelling and pain, helping speed up recovery.
You can prevent an ankle sprain from turning into ankle instability by following these important steps:
Ankle support braces are recommended to protect the sprained foot against abnormal twisting and provide sufficient support to prevent further damage.
According to a 2019 study, recreational sports players have a high propensity to develop lateral ankle sprains. A large proportion of these suffer from chronic ankle instability. An ankle and foot brace can reduce the risk of sustaining further injuries and ankle instability.
You can also try kinesiology tape to keep the foot in place. As per a study, kinesiology tape is highly efficacious in preventing ankle sprains. Moreover, the ankle balancing tape instantly improves postural control in ankle sprain patients. As a result, patients can walk on unstable surfaces without an issue.
Taping also improves joint position sense in the patients. That makes patients better aware of the ankle position and helps prevent instability.
Ankle braces and kinesiology taping show promising results. The balancing taping did an exceptional job on a 33-year-old male patient with a long history (10 years) of chronic ankle instability. The patient experienced no instability on climbing stairs and walking rugged paths after two months of ankle balancing taping (ABT).
According to surveys, most lateral ankle sprain patients do not receive rehabilitation. Physical therapy for lateral ankle sprains is effective in preventing ankle instability.
The timely introduction of physical therapy speeds up the healing process. It also prevents the ankle ligaments from weakening. Manual therapy is effective in promoting soft tissue repair. Superior results are seen with physical therapy and exercise.
Physiotherapy has multiple benefits for the patient. Research shows that prompt treatment minimizes the time lost from the sport (which matters a lot to the players). It also cuts the chain of sequences that lead to ankle instability by preventing future re-injury.
Fascial manipulation (a type of physical therapy) aids in improving the range of motion and prevents further injury.
Prescription medicines are vital in lowering pain and inflammation. Recovering from Injuries attained during sports activities requires rest and proper medications. The athletic nature of some patients acts as a barrier to proper healing of the ankle sprain.
Over-the-counter painkillers (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen not only help in alleviating pain but also aid in performing strengthening exercises. Persistent pain can push you into developing a posture unsuitable for healing.
Thus, timely taking medicines for an ankle sprain can prevent further complications.
Ankle sprain patients must also pay attention to their posture while playing. Research shows that athletes with abnormal postures are more prone to sports injuries. A lack of postural stability pushes you into the abyss of injuries.
Posture alignment reduces stress on the muscles and ligaments, preventing injuries. The relation between postural changes and injury incidence among futsal players was noted in a study.
Warming Up Before Exercise
You need to be cautious even after fully recovering from an ankle injury. Warming before exercising or playing your favorite support is of utmost importance. A warm-up improves the circulation of the muscles, reduces the chances of fatigue, and improves the range of motion.
Balancing Exercises and Stability Training
After the acute painful phase of ankle sprain is over, you should start performing some light exercises. Supervised exercise therapy is potent in increasing functional stability and reducing recurrent sprains. Additional exercises provide an improved rate of recovery.
Being Cautious on Uneven Surfaces
A simple tip to guard your injured foot against chronic ankle instability is to be cautious on surfaces that are uneven. Rugged terrain and bouncy, slippery, and uneven plains can trigger twisting of the foot and make you prone to developing complications.