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How to Avoid Chronic Ankle Instability Following a Severe Sprain

Sep 05, 2023
How to Avoid Chronic Ankle Instability Following a Severe Sprain
If you sprain your ankle, you should focus part of your recovery on not spraining it again to prevent chronic ankle instability. Read on to find out how you can do that.

Quick, what’s one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries?

If you answered ankle sprain, take a bow! About 2 million ankle sprains occur annually in the United States, and the number is likely higher since many sprains aren’t reported.

Up to 70% of those who experience an ankle sprain may experience lingering disability from the injury, such as chronic ankle instability.

Here at Austin Foot & Ankle Institute, our team frequently treats patients with ankle sprains. Our goal is to restore full ankle function and keep it that way. Here’s how we help patients avoid chronic ankle instability after a sprain.

What’s chronic ankle instability?

Chronic ankle instability often develops after you’ve sprained your ankle multiple times. With this condition, the outside of your ankle gives way, causing your ankle to turn. It can happen when you’re active or standing still and usually causes pain, swelling, and tenderness.

Spraining your ankle means you stretched or tore the ligaments around your ankle. If you don’t rehab your ankle to strengthen the muscles around it, your ankle likely continues to turn. That weakens your ligaments further and leads to greater instability.

Treatments to avoid instability

To avoid chronic ankle instability, consider these strategies after an ankle sprain to strengthen your ankle.


After you first sprain your ankle, follow this protocol to prevent further injury and begin recovery:

  • Rest: Avoid putting weight and pressure on your ankle while it heals.
  • Ice: Place a cold pack on your ankle to help reduce swelling.
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage or compression sock to help prevent swelling.
  • Elevation: Prop your ankle above your heart to reduce blood flow and swelling.

Physical therapy

As soon as your ankle has healed enough, begin physical therapy to restore strength, improve your balance, and regain your normal range of motion.

You start with gentle range of motion exercises and then move to strengthening activities once the swelling and pain are gone. Your physical therapist should include exercises for your calves and feet since they support and are affected by the ankle.


Wearing an ankle brace or splint can keep your ankle from turning again, especially if you’re involved in sports. That helps prevent more sprains as your ankle returns to normal. Taping your ankle is a more flexible support method.

Also, warm up slowly before playing a sport, watch out for uneven surfaces, and wear shoes that fit and provide good support.

If these methods don’t solve your ankle instability, surgery to tighten or reconstruct ligaments may be an option.

If you need help treating a sprained ankle, Dr. Pedro Cosculluela and Dr. Andrew Ebert and the team at Austin Foot & Ankle are here to help. To schedule an appointment, call one of our locations in Austin and Cedar Park, Texas, today or request your appointment online.