Ankle sprains are a common injury, especially among people who play sports, walk or run on uneven surfaces, are in poor physical condition, or who have had prior ankle injury. You should know the possible consequences of repeated ankle sprains, as well as how you can avoid spraining your ankle again.
The experts at Orthocenter understand how an ankle injury can upend your life. If you play sports, you suddenly find yourself on the sideline, not to mention the discomfort and pain of the injury. You may even find it difficult or impossible to carry out your normal daily activities as you recover from the injury.
Chronic ankle instability
Repeated sprains means you’re at risk for developing chronic ankle instability, which is exactly what you probably imagine. When you have chronic ankle instability, your ankle can give out at random times.
You may simply be walking across a perfectly flat surface, or even just standing still, and your ankle suddenly loses stability.
Often, chronic ankle instability is the result of multiple sprains, or when your ankle doesn’t heal properly or completely following a sprain. The ligaments in your ankle are what give you balance, and when you sprain the joint, you’ve stretched and weakened that important connective tissue. That leaves you vulnerable to another sprain.
Chronic ankle instability can be treated. Often, physical therapy, bracing, medications, or some combination of the three is a successful approach. In some cases, surgery is necessary.
Prevention, as always, is the best medicine. If you can avoid repeated sprains, you probably won’t develop chronic ankle instability.
Roughly half of all ankle sprains result in a chronic problem. Getting treatment for your first sprain can help you avoid becoming part of that number. Expert care gives you a better idea of how long you should wait to do certain activities or to return to your regular schedule.
Treatment also provides guidance in strengthening your ankle as you return to activities, which is important when it comes to avoiding future injuries. Your doctor may instruct you in taping your ankle, wearing a brace, and warming up prior to activity.
The risk of reinjury is the highest during the first year following your original injury. Appropriate medical attention during that time could save you years of pain.
Tips for avoiding ankle sprain
In addition to seeking medical care when you sprain your ankle, there are other things you can do to avoid the injury instead.
Warm up. Every time. A good warmup gets blood moving to your body, and that can be the key to avoiding injury. You may want to just jump in and play, but taking a few minutes to warm up is important — especially if you’re older or if you’re just beginning a sport or activity.
Wear the proper shoes, and make sure they fit properly. The right footwear can help prevent an acute injury like ankle sprains, and also keep you from getting blisters.
Avoid wearing high heels. If you must, do so for the shortest possible time, and wear the lowest heel possible.
When you begin a new activity or a new exercise program, build up slowly. You need to condition your body to the new movements, as well as build strength and flexibility.
Include strength and flexibility drills into your exercise routine. The stronger you can build the muscles that support your ankle joint, the less likelihood of injuring it, and more flexibility means less chance of weakening those all-important ligaments.
Along with strength and flexibility, make it a point to improve your balance and stability.
If you’d like to learn more about protecting your ankles, as well as discuss your personal risk of reinjury, book an appointment at Orthocenter.
We have locations in Red Bank, Morganville, Marlboro Township, and Holmdel, New Jersey. Call the office that is the most convenient for you, or send a message to the team here on our website.