There are many different moving parts that interact with one another to facilitate movement at each joint in your body. The ankle is no exception to the rule. It consists of bones, ligaments, and tendons that work in tandem to ensure the stability that makes your daily tasks bearable.
That being said, however, anything with moving parts will wear down over time. Of course, depending on your lifestyle, you may discover instability in your ankles at an even younger age.
Ankle instability is an understandably broad classification. You will find, however, a common thread between most cases of the condition: The outer side of the ankle regularly gives out when pressure is applied to the structure.
Patients with ankle instability say that the condition causes their affected ankle to feel wobbly and makes movement precarious. In most instances, ankle instability recurs at regular intervals. Because of this, many people both in and out of the medical community categorize ankle instability as a chronic condition. In the vast majority—if not all—of instances, the condition simply refuses to go away on its own.
But, how does all of this happen? Ankle instability most commonly results from a sprain or a series of sprains that have not properly healed or been rehabilitated. Naturally, this means that the condition has a high occurrence among athletes. However, even non-athletes can fall victim to ankle instability. If your job requires a lot of walking—and, specifically, tasks that require you to repeatedly turn your ankle—then you are just as at risk as any star Olympian.
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Chances are, if you have engaged in hard physical labor or participated in high-energy sports, then you know what it feels like to have your knees buckle. In most cases, this is simply the result of overwhelming fatigue.
Ankle instability causes a very similar sensation, but it occurs in the ankle instead of the knee. You’re just walking, going about your day as you do, and then, suddenly, you lose your balance because it feels as though your ankle is going to collapse. And, this only occurs at an even higher frequency when you involve uneven surfaces or formal footwear such as high heels.
Additionally, pain may accompany ankle instability depending on the severity of the case. The pain may be a constant, dull ache, or it may manifest as a sudden, sharp sensation. In addition to these uncomfortable symptoms, the affected ankle may also swell in size. Patients complain of a general sense of discomfort in their ankle from this edema.
Of course, the severity of the patient’s ankle instability will vary highly from case to case. This can hinge greatly on how many ankle sprains the patient has fallen victim to, as well as how bad the sprains were in severity.
Of course, matters only become worse if these sprains are not rehabilitated properly. When you sprain your ankle, the associated ligaments become stretched or torn. This naturally causes balance issues that must be remedied with muscle strengthening exercises. Failing to perform this crucial step will not only result in ankle instability, but it will also make the patient much more likely to fall victim to future sprains.
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In the vast majority of cases, ankle instability does not necessitate surgery. That being said, if conservative treatments have been exhausted and do not provide the patient with adequate relief, then surgery may be the best option. As far as non-surgical methods go, your doctor may recommend or prescribe:
As previously stated, most cases of ankle instability do not call for surgery. But, of course, that isn’t to say such cases don’t exist. In the vast majority of scenarios, your doctor will exhaust conservative options first before opting for a surgical solution.
That being said, your doctor may recommend ankle surgery immediately if they find your case to be very severe during your initial evaluation. Your doctor will be able to tell if this applies to you through a variety of means. He or she will likely ask you a series of questions regarding the nature of your symptoms, your medical history, and even your family’s medical history.
During this time, your doctor will likely perform a physical examination of the affected area. This includes simply observing the ankle, as well as applying small amounts of pressure to pinpoint exactly where the pain originates. In some instances, your doctor may even consider ordering imaging tests such as X-rays to obtain a closer look at what is going on.
If your doctor finds that surgery is the only way to go, they are most likely going to repair, reconstruct, or transplant the damaged ligaments. Of course, the surgical method that your doctor will employ is going to depend on the nature of your case as well as the severity of your symptoms. This is why maintaining a good level of communication with your doctor is key. Make sure that you ask as many questions as you can during this phase, so you can walk away with peace of mind.
Have you experienced discomfort in one of your ankles for a period of two weeks or more? Did you recently suffer a sprain in your ankle and just can’t seem to shake off the discomfort?
If so, then it’s probably time to see a podiatrist.
At NJ Spine & Orthopedic, our expert staff is highly trained in the most up-to-the-moment advancements in minimally invasive surgical techniques. These methods allow us to provide an alternative to more traditional open surgery, which naturally involves a longer recovery time, more severe scarring, and higher complication rates.
At NJSO, our doctors and nurses work tirelessly to ensure that your treatment care plan suits the specific needs of your individual case. For more information, contact our practice today!
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