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Lateral Ankle Instability: A Shaky Foundation
Picture a newborn horse or deer. When they try to stand up they are very wobbly and unstable on their feet. Now imagine if that’s how you felt. With lateral ankle instability, weakened ankles can lose their stability, resulting in pain, swelling, and dangerous falls. When our feet and ankles have difficulty supporting our own weight, physical activity, and even daily activities, come to a standstill. However, just like the newborn colt and fawn, all it takes is some time, and a little help.
Inside Ankle Instability
Repeated or chronic ankle sprains are the main cause of lateral ankle instability, although heredity and structural deformities are also culprits. When the ligaments that support and control the ankle joint become damaged from repeated sprains over time, they lose their strength and ability to move the ankle around. This in turn affects your balance and causes the ankle to give way or twist easily, resulting in pain and difficulty walking, much less doing more strenuous activities. The instability can be mechanical, meaning normal function is inhibited, or functional, meaning you are still able to use your ankle, but only with difficulty.
Sprained ankles are typically treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. However if chronic sprains have caused instability, a physical therapy program should be incorporated into your routine. Through use of devices like wobble boards and ankle disks, physical therapy can help to improve balance. Specially designed exercises will strengthen the muscles in your ankle and improve range-of-motion, as well as help heal the nerves that may have been damaged. These nerves are responsible for telling our brain how to use our muscles, so restoring their abilities will in turn aide in the return of proper function.
In addition to physical rehabilitation, wearing an ankle brace can help to add support and stability, control swelling, and protect your ankle against recurrent injuries. Immobilization is sometimes necessary to allow for healing. This can be aided by a cast or boot.
If all conservative options fail in treating lateral ankle instability, there are surgical procedures that you can consider.
Ankle Stabilization Surgery
There are various surgical procedures available. Which one is appropriate for you depends on the severity of the condition as well as your overall health. Your activity level, weight, occupation, and surgical history will also be taken into consideration. Procedures typically fall into two categories:
Brostrom-Gould—this type of procedure involves the use of local tissue to reconstruct the lateral collateral ligament complex. Anatomic structures are not disturbed and range-of-motion is hardly restricted.
Tenodesis—in this procedure, the lateral collateral ligament complex is reconstructed using a tendon graft threaded through holes drilled in the ankle bones. Although this provides excellent stability, it does restrict the joints’ ability to move.
If your ankles are not providing the strong foundation you need to live a full and active life, come visit Dr. Craig Thomajan and Dr. Shine John at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists located in Austin, TX. They can help you decide if ankle stabilization surgery is the best option for you. Get your legs under you again and get going! Call (512) 328-8900 for an appointment today.
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