Preventing Chronic Instability Following a Severe Ankle Sprain

Preventing Chronic Instability Following a Severe Ankle Sprain

You’ve sprained your ankle. It happens. Perhaps you missed the curb when you had your arms full of packages. Maybe it was a slip on icy pavement. Ankle sprains are also common sports accidents. 

Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists at Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine treat many patients who have ankle sprains

Ankle sprains are categorized by severity. If we’ve diagnosed a severe grade 3 sprain, you have a complete tear in a ligament in your ankle. You’re at risk for ankle instability, which also puts you more at risk for falls and additional injuries. 

Following is our outline of a treatment plan to help you avoid chronic ankle instability. 

Conservative treatment for severe ankle sprains

The good news is that if a ligament tear is the only major damage you have, you’re likely to heal without needing surgery if you follow our rehabilitation protocol. 

On the other hand, you may have more damage than a ligament tear and require surgery if your ankle remains unstable once you’ve healed. 

If you’ve sustained a grade 3 ankle sprain, we may immobilize your leg in a cast or brace for the first week or two. 

You use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) at home as appropriate. We want you to keep your leg elevated above your heart as much as you can. You’re likely to need crutches to help you walk. 

It’s important for you to start moving after a week or two of being immobile. The brace or cast comes off. Our office helps you set up physical therapy appointments with our expert therapists in advance, so when you’re ready, you don’t have to wait to get an appointment. 

Your therapist begins with gentle massages to your ankle and shows you how to perform gentle range-of-motion exercises. You won’t be able to reach full range of motion, but you do the exercises as well as you can without causing pain. 

Your therapist also shows you how to do isometric exercises. They create muscle tension but don’t cause movement in your joint, so they’re safe. These exercises build up the muscles around your sprained ankle. Strong muscles help provide ankle stability. 

Balance retraining

You also work on retraining your balance. Your therapist has you try to balance on one leg with your eyes closed and eventually balance on a wobble board. Proprioception (balance training) exercises help to lower your risk of future ankle sprains. 

You can see how important this is if you play sports that require twisting and turning. 

The last phase of physical therapy includes advanced balance and strength exercises as well as returning to activities that don’t require twisting or turning your ankle — for example, taking walks. 

If you’re an athlete, when your doctor says you may return to your sport, you may need to tape or brace your ankle to lessen the risk of instability. Returning to your sport too soon could result in future ankle instability and further damage. Grade 3 sprains may take up to three months to heal. 

Surgical treatment for ankle instability

 If your ankle sustained other significant injuries besides a severe ligament tear, you’re likely to need surgery to repair the damage. Dr. Michael Hood uses arthroscopic surgery when possible to repair torn ligaments and other damage. 

Call Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in West Memphis, Arkansas, or Collierville, Tennessee, or book an appointment online today for all of your orthopedic needs. We’re bone and joint specialists. 

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