How To Prevent Chronic Ankle Pain

Image Credit: Virtual Sports Injury Clinic 

Article Authors: Gordon Slater| Tandose Sambo 

The ankles are the parts of our bodies that experience high pressures on a small surface area. As people, we generally love active lifestyles and end up running, jumping, shimmying our way into injuries. It is no surprise therefore, that the ankle is the most injured site of the body. Up to 30% of all sports related injuries are ankle induced. In the recent Super Bowl activities, the Quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs actually incurred a high ankle sprain during the finals game. 

As a physical mechanism, the body can be damaged or injured when it is over exerted. Twisting, rolling and turning motions that are outside certain critical boundaries can cause the ligaments in the ankle to be stretched or torn. The ligaments are the part of the foundation of the ankle system, and they help to keep the ankle stable. When they are stretched beyond capacity, the ankle’s mechanisms are affected, and the joint becomes unstable. 

What are symptoms of ankle sprain?

Once the ankle sprain is induced by physical activity, you may experience some swelling or bruising as well as discomfort around the site. Within the joint there are other materials that sustain the joint. These include tendons, cartilage and blood vessels. If there’s excessive damage to the joint, they can be damaged and will have to be restored during healing. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include: 

  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • bruising
  • pain
  • inability to put weight on the affected ankle
  • skin discoloration
  • stiffness

During your orthopaedic consultation, discuss all your symptoms with your doctor. After the initial discussion, a physical exam will be conducted by your doctor. The check will analyse your range of motion, and will often involve imaging tests to confirm the root causes of your symptoms. These image tests include X-rays and MRI. With a proper view of the internals of your ankle, your doctor will confirm if you have a sprain or a fracture. 

Treatment plans for ankle pain are directly correlated to the severity. In acute conditions, you will only require rest and pain medications. In more severe conditions, you will probably need more medical intervention. Chronic ankle instability can develop if the ankle is not stabilised after an ankle sprain. 

Chronic Ankle Instability

When ankle instability sets in after an injury, patients often experience a general “wobbliness” of the ankle joint. This is often experienced if activities are resumed by a patient who has not fully recovered from a previous injury. Patients may often rush to return to what they feel is a normal routine, yet the body still needs time to fully restore itself. An unstable ankle will keep giving way and patients will experience frequent sprains. The ankles may often bend beyond normal ranges of motion, and patients will experience pain and swelling in the joint. An orthopaedic consultation will diagnose an unstable ankle. 

Treatments for Ankle Instability

Ankle instability is often treated in a variety of ways:

  1. Physical Therapy
  2. Bracing and Taping
  3. Over the counter pain medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  4. Surgical treatments 

In the treatment options above, surgical methods are the methods of last resort. The procedure lateral ankle ligament construction is often applied to restore the joint stability. The procedure tightens the external ligaments of the ankle and provides more joint stability and control. 

In all things, prevention is better than cure. Protect your ankles by ensuring that you are warming up properly prior to physical activity, supporting the ankles with braces, and practising strength training. 

.Article Reference:

Monroe Foot and Ankle Care

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Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

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