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Overcoming Chronic Ankle Instability

The word “chronic” refers to something that’s persistent and ongoing. Wordsmiths and other lovers of language might note that “chronic” comes from the Greek word “chronos,” meaning “time.” Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center in Centreville, VA notes that over time, that ankle that’s been constantly bothering you can really interfere with your daily activities. But there is much that can be done to fix a weak ankle that won’t quit.

What causes a chronically unstable ankle?
In the majority of cases, it’s from an ankle sprain that didn’t heal properly. A sprained ankle means that the soft tissues in your ankle that keep your bones connected has been torn. Once torn, that tissue – as well as the muscles that surround it – can remain really weak if it didn’t get the proper rest and physical therapy to strengthen it back up.

Repeated injury to the same area is another cause of ankle instability. “Here we go again,” says the previously injured tissue, and the more it suffers, the harder it is to regain its full strength. Some other causes of a weak, unstable ankle include

  • arthritis in the joints that make up the ankle
  • the buildup of scar tissue from previous injuries
  • damage to the nerves that pass through the ankle

Symptoms and Treatment

If you…

  • have had one or more ankle sprains and you often feel like you can’t quite get your balance – especially when you’re standing on one foot
  • feel stiffness or tenderness in your ankle
  • have pain on the outer side of your ankle
    …then you may be suffering from chronic ankle instability. Dr. Wilhelm sometimes refers to it as chronic lateral ankle pain or instability, since very often the pain you feel is on the outside (lateral) side of your ankle.

Treatment can be as simple as physical therapy or as complicated as reconstructive surgery. Dr. Wilhelm is experienced in all aspects of ankle surgery, and would be happy to discuss your options. Make an appointment with us online or give us a phone call at (703) 996-3000.

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