Bayview Physicians Group

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Ankle Sprains and Instability

March 18th, 2016

By Mark A. Prissel, DPM

Ankle sprains are the most common musculoskeletal injury, occurring at a rate of over 800,000 per year in the US. The severity of these injuries varies greatly, from mild turns of the ankle that heal quickly within days to complete tears that can be burdensome for months. A sprain is a stretching or tearing of ligament(s), which is tissue that connects bone to adjacent bone and provides stability. As the weather warms and we become more active, the incidence of these injuries increases. After a sprain occurs, if not able to put full weight on the ankle, it is recommended that you be evaluated by a foot and ankle specialist to help diagnose and guide the proper treatment. X-rays are often also taken at the time of the injury to make sure that a broken bone or dislocation isn’t associated with the injury.

The most common type of ankle sprain is of the lateral or outside part of the ankle; this variety typically responds well to conservative care, including RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment and sometimes requires bracing or a walking boot for a few weeks. More severe lateral ankle sprains may require a period of time using crutches or other walking aid to help keep your weight off of the foot. Sometimes physical therapy is also used as part of the recovery process. Medial (inside) ankle sprains can also occur, but are less common than the lateral sprains. The “high” ankle sprain is another type of sprain that may require a longer recovery; in some instances for a severe high ankle sprain, also known as a syndesmotic sprain, surgical stabilization is recommended. For those sports enthusiasts, one may recall athletes that suffer a high ankle sprain are often out for several weeks to a few months, whereas a regular ankle sprain will keep an athlete out for only a few days to weeks.

Once getting back to activity following an ankle sprain, bracing of the ankle may be required to help provide additional support over the following months to prevent re-injury. After a bad sprain, there is an increased risk for reinjuring that same ankle at some point in the future. For some, frequent ankle sprains are a problem and the ankle may feel like it is going to “give out.” This is referred to as chronic ankle instability, which occurs when the previously injured ligaments of the ankle heal in a stretched position. Chronic ankle instability shouldn’t be ignored, as this can result in pain and early formation of arthritis. For the recurrent ankle sprainer, when bracing fails, surgical stabilization/repair of the ankle ligaments can be performed.

Whether immediately following a recent sprain or if you suffer with your ankle repetitively giving out, evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon can provide strategies to get you back to your desired level of activity and prevent future injury.

Dr. Prissel is accepting new patients at Atlantic Foot & Ankle Center in Suffolk at 3060 Godwin Blvd. (757-923-9660) and in Chesapeake at 725 Volvo Pkwy. (757-481-0998). For more information about Dr. Prissel, please visit https://www.bayviewphysicians.com/physician/mark-a-prissel/.