Skip to content

Chronic ankle sprain

Chronic ankle sprain, also referred to as chronic ankle instability, is a condition which involves the lateral (outer) side of the ankle 'giving way' on a recurring basis. The condition can develop after the occurrence of numerous ankle sprains. The collapse of the ankle's lateral side typically happens while walking or performing other movements, and even when standing. People who play sports which involve exerting a lot of pressure on the ankle - such as running, tennis or football - can be prone to developing chronic ankle sprain.

Causes

A common cause of chronic ankle sprain is the inadequate healing of an ankle sprain. In cases where an individual has not rehabilitated sufficiently following an ankle injury, chronic ankle sprain can develop. The ankle must be given time to repair following an ankle sprain, allowing ligaments which were torn or stretched to heal and for the muscles in the ankle region to gain strength. If these connective tissues were not given the chance to heal, chronic ankle sprain can arise.

Another possible cause is a series of ankle sprains, which leads to a progressive weakening of the ligaments, with the consequence of increasing instability, and/or other ankle problems.

Symptoms

Among the common symptoms of chronic ankle pain are:

- persistent discomfort;
- the collapse and turning of the ankle when performing physical activities and movements
- swelling
- a 'wobbly’ ankle and general tenderness in the ankle area.

Treatment

Before a treatment path for chronic ankle sprain is chosen, the nature of your condition and previous ankle injuries will be assessed. The ankle will be checked for its level of instability, signs of swelling and tenderness. Tests such as x-rays can be used in making the evaluation. The specific individual's level of activity is also taken into account when assessing the best method of treatment.

Nonsurgical treatment paths can include physical therapy, which uses various exercises to improve the ankle's range of movement, strengthen the muscles around the ankle and retrain the muscles around the ankle; medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can help to reduce inflammation and stop pain; and bracing, which involves the wearing of an ankle brace in order to prevent the ankle from turning and helping to reduce the risk of further ankle sprains.

Surgical treatments can be recommended in some cases. This is likely to be based on the level of the ankle's instability, and the ineffectiveness of nonsurgical methods. Surgical treatments are largely focused on either the repair or entire reconstruction of damaged ligaments around the ankle. These typically include procedures such as lateral ankle ligament reconstruction surgery.

The nature of each surgical procedure will depend on the specific individual's condition. Similarly, the recovery time which is needed following each procedure, and the rehabilitation exercises which are recommended, will vary according to the type of surgical procedure which was performed.

As with all foot surgery it is normal for swelling to persist for some months after surgery and is completely normal. This swelling will eventually completely subside with time and can take up to 12 months but often goes well before this.

Hear what our patients have to say

Patient stories

Mr Ajis is a great surgeon, he listens to any concern you may have and explains what is going to happen also gives great care... He suggested a fairly new procedure that wasn't available on the NHS but he pushed me through and he and his team have worked wonders, I am now healing very well and pain-free in my ankle after 6 years!

Written by a patient at BMI Goring Hall Hospital

Mr Ajis was very informative and reassuring about my surgery. He was professional at all times and allowed time for me to have all my questions answered without feeling rushed.

Written by a patient at BMI Goring Hall Hospital