The most common type of chronic ankle sprains that we see are inversion ankle sprains. That occurs when your foot twists inward, and we see this a lot with athletes playing sports like basketball and soccer where they stepped on someone else's foot and twist the ankle. We also see this occur when patients are hiking when they stepp on a rock and the foot will twist underneath the ankle.
If this happens to you 1 time, we typically recommend placing you in a Cam walker boot for 3 weeks. Part of this treatment is to hold the ankle at 90° to try and let the lateral ankle ligaments heal back together as tightly as possible. After the 3 weeks, we then typically start physical therapy and have patient's work on strengthening exercises to try to make sure that the ankle does not end up chronically loose where patients can be prone to sprain the ankle again.
If you are suffering from inversion ankle sprains chronically, this is typically because the lateral ankle ligaments have healed in a lengthened position, which we call attenuated. Once this is happens, it is still helpful to try strengthening exercises, and we particularly recommend single-leg balance exercises to try to strengthen the muscles around the ankle joint.
If the strengthening exercises do not work and the ankle is chronically unstable, most patients end up needing to have a procedure called a Broström lateral ankle stabilization to tighten those ligaments so the ankle is not chronically spraining anymore. If you suffer too many chronic ankle sprains over the years, we know that eventually arthritis will develop in the ankle joint.
Most of the time when we see patients with these symptoms, we get an MRI to evaluate the soft tissues and also look for tearing of the peroneal tendons or osteochondral defects within the ankle joint itself. Depending on what the MRI shows, many patients can be significantly helped with ankle arthroscopy were we performed synovectomy to remove the inflammatory tissue in the ankle and then also tighten in the lateral ankle ligaments. We also often times use the extensor retinaculum to help reinforce the lateral ankle ligament repair.
The postop course for most of these type surgeries involves 3 weeks of nonweightbearing and then 4 additional weeks where patients are allowed to weight-bear in a protective boot. After 7 weeks from surgery, we are typically able to get patients back in regular shoes and then have them start physical therapy to work on strengthening and range of motion of the ankle joint.
If you are suffering from chronic ankle sprains or any other foot and ankle pain, call our Colorado Springs foot and ankle surgeons so we can help you today at 719-488-4664.