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Ankle Sprains and Instability

Additional information can be found in regards to ankle sprains and instability with the following links:



American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society: ankle sprains

WebMD: Ankle sprains

Wobble Board therapy for treatment of ankle sprains




The ankle joint complex is made up of several ligaments which are responsible for the stability of the ankle.  The most common ligaments injured are the lateral ankle ligaments (or those on the outside of the ankle).  This most frequently occurs with sports or tripping down steps.  Symptoms include pain on the outside of the ankle, difficulty walking, swelling, and bruising.


Ankle sprains occur when the ankle "inverts" or turns in suddenly stretching the ligaments on the outside of the ankle beyond their natural limits causing them to tear. Ankle sprains are frequently caused during activities in which there is a lot of side to side motion such as basketball, soccer, or tennis. Even walking can result in injury, such as when missing a step or slipping on a wet floor.


Ankle sprains and instability are primarily diagnosed clinically, meaning that the doctor will make the diagnosis by the description of pain and through the physical exam. This will be performed by the physician applying pressure to the area where the ligaments are torn or stretched.  Often further diagnostic imaging is required to make the correct diagnosis including the use of x-ray, MRI, or ultrasound.


Treatment of ankle sprains and instability is primarily conservative in a nature.  The majority of sprains resolve by wearing a brace or CAM boot, and physical therapy. Physical therapy for ankle instability works on increasing strength of muscles surrounding the ankle as well as increasing range of motion. In certain circumstances ankle sprains and ankle instability requires surgical correction to tighten the ankle ligaments but only after conservative care has been exhausted.

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