What is recurrent ankle sprains / ankle instability?
Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries that people get and studies have shown that up to 40% of ankle sprains develop chronic instability and other related symptoms. Recurrent/chronic ankle sprains or ankle instability is a condition where your ankle joint becomes unstable and prone to repeated sprains.
When your ankle joint is unstable, it can be challenging to maintain your balance and may lead to repeated ankle sprains. These ankle sprains occur when the ligaments connected to the bones in your ankle are stretched or torn, typically from a sudden twisting motion.
What causes recurrent ankle sprains / ankle instability?
Some potential causes that may contribute to recurrent ankle sprains/instability are:
History of ankle injuries: individuals with a history of ankle injuries that were not properly healed or rehabilitated can go on to develop recurrent or chronic ankle sprains/instability.
Reduced muscle strength: weak ankle muscles can cause recurrent or chronic ankle sprains/instability.
Activities that strain your ankle joint: activities such as running or jumping can cause you to land awkwardly and cause repeated ankle sprains.
Footwear: high heels or shoes with no proper support can cause chronic ankle sprains / instability.
It is important to note that the causes of recurrent ankle sprains or ankle instability vary between individuals and you should always get a thorough evaluation by your orthopaedist.
What are the symptoms of recurrent ankle sprains / ankle instability?
Symptoms of recurrent ankle sprains / instability include:
Pain or discomfort
Swelling or tenderness
Difficulty maintaining balance when standing or walking
Loose or unstable ankle joint
Limited range of motion
Stiffness or tightness in your ankle muscles or tendons
Frequent cracking or popping sounds
Weak ankle muscles
If you notice any of the symptoms, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.
Is recurrent ankle sprains / ankle instability painful?
The severity of the pain felt from recurrent ankle sprains or ankle instability varies between individuals depending on how long they have had this condition or if there is any underlying medical condition.
For some, recurrent ankle sprains or ankle instability can be painful and uncomfortable. This pain is most prominent during physical activities and may persist even when at rest. For others, any pain felt might be mild and manageable. In severe cases, it can limit day-to-day activities or participation in sports.
Who is at risk of recurrent ankle sprains / ankle instability in Singapore?
Ankle sprains/instability can happen to anyone but there are some factors that can increase your risk, these are:
History of ankle injuries: with each sprain, the ligaments, muscles, and tendons in your ankle become looser, weaker, and overstretched, making you more prone to repeated ankle sprains and subsequently, ankle instability.
Reduced ankle flexibility: having poor ankle flexibility can make you more prone to recurrent or chronic ankle sprains or instability.
Certain sports: physical activities such as running, jumping, or sudden changes in direction, puts you at a higher risk for recurrent ankle sprains or ankle instability.
How is recurrent ankle sprains / ankle instability diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform the following tests for diagnosis:
Physical examination: check for signs of swelling, tenderness and instability or imbalance in your ankle joint (especially when standing still or walking). You may also be asked to perform specific actions in order for your doctor to assess your ankle’s range of motion, stability, and strength.
Medical history: you may be asked about previous ankle injuries (including how and when they occurred) and symptoms you are experiencing. Your doctor will also inquire about your day-to-day activities and if you participate in any sports or physical activities that may have contributed to your ankle injury.
Imaging tests: an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in order to look into the severity of your injury and to rule out any underlying medical conditions or other possible causes of your ankle pain and instability.
What are the treatment options for recurrent ankle sprains / ankle instability in Singapore?
Treatment for recurrent ankle sprains/instability depends on the severity of your case.
Treatment options include:
Rest: rest your ankle and treat the area with ice and compression.