The ankles are necessary for helping us stand up properly, and if they are unstable, we too will be unstable. Ankle instability is a problem for those with recurring ankle injuries such as strains and sprains. When your ankles are unstable, you can feel unsteady even on flat surfaces. There are many different causes of ankle instability that may need different forms of treatment. Ankle instability within itself is not serious, but the constant falls and injuries can lead to severe damage.
The ankle is a joint made up of three separate bones. The talus, tibia, and fibula all connect at the place we call our ankle. The ankle is made in such a way that allows us to move with a great range of motion. The bones are held together by tendons, ligaments, and muscles. These structures allow the ankle to stretch and move around without totally falling apart. We use our ankles in walking, running, jumping, swimming, and dancing. The ankles are important for even the simple tasks. If you have an ankle injury, it can limit your mobility.
There are many different causes of ankle instability. The main cause of ankle instability is constant sprain ankles. A sprain happens when the ligaments of the ankle tear or stretch beyond its normal limits. Ankle strain is a pulling of the tendon and muscle of the foot. When we fall or twist our ankle, we tend to cause sprains and strains in the ankle. Ankle fractures also create strains and sprains. The shift in some of the bones in the ankle pulls on the tendon connected to the bone. When you have a sprain or strain, you have to take the time to allow it to heal. When you do not let it heal properly, you will more than likely have another sprain or strain. Once you stretch those ligaments and tendons beyond their limit, they may never heal properly, making your ankle unstable.
Ankle instability is painful and usually causes your ankles to buckle even on flat surfaces. Swelling and tenderness are common. You may even feel your ankle wobbling. When you walk, it may feel as if the ankle is going to just fall apart. The ankle does not typically look deformed. If you notice that your ankle does not look right, you should see a doctor right away; that may be a more serious injury.
If you sprain your ankle, you usually tape it up and keep going. As an athlete, you probably don’t even pay too much attention to the injury and play through it. The problem is, after one ankle sprain, you are susceptible to more ankle sprains. The ankles take a while to heal. It is not something that heals overnight. For this reason, you should pay more attention to ankle injuries. After the ankle heals, you may not feel any more pain, but you will probably feel more flexibility in the ankle. When those tendons and ligaments are stretched, they do not always heal completely. Sometimes they remain slightly pulled. When you have recurring injuries, the ankle no longer becomes stable, and even braces may not be enough to keep the ankle in place.
When you go to the doctor, they will examine your foot and question you about previous injuries. The diagnosis may be a sprain off of examination, but if you have a history of sprains and your ankle giving out, you will need more than a physical examination. Through X-ray and other images, the doctor can see the structure of the foot as well as the severity of the pull in the tendons and ligaments. If the images show that your foot is slightly twisted, it could mean it never healed from a previous injury. When you do not walk properly, you also end up having back problems and posture issues.
Treatment for ankle instability can range from rest to needing surgery. Mild instability can be fixed with physical therapy and giving your ankle the time to heal. Physical therapy helps strengthen the muscles around the ankle. It also strengthens the ligaments and tendons. When those parts of the ankle are strong, it keeps the ankle in place and prevents the ankle from constantly giving out. It is best to wear a brace even if you are doing physical therapy. The brace keeps the ankle stable while it heals. Many athletes put on a brace to prevent future twisting of the ankle. When ankle instability is severe, surgery is necessary to repair the ligaments and tendons that are damaged.
When we sprain our ankle, we usually ice it, take some medicine for pain and limp on it until we do not feel any more pain. This may work for first-time sprains and strains, but it is not a good idea when you have persistent ankle injuries. After a while, ice and rest no longer help because the ankle has become unstable. If you notice your ankles give out on you easily or feel loose and sore all the time, you should see a doctor. Through the proper treatment, you can regain the strength in your ankles and walk without feeling wobbly.
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