Ankle sprains are one of the top orthopedic injuries, especially among athletes and active individuals of all ages. Unfortunately, suffering a sprain increases your risk of future sprains and a complication known as chronic ankle instability.
Chronic ankle instability is characterized by recurrent sprains and a feeling of weakness in your ankle joint. It can make participating in your favorite sports and activities challenging, but the good news is that you can take steps to prevent it — even after suffering a severe sprain injury.
Our team at Manhattan Orthopedics is ready to help. We specialize in sports injury care, and in this blog, we’re discussing the most effective strategies to prevent long-term ankle instability after a sprain.
1. Seek care right away
Though a sprain might seem like a minor injury, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention when you get hurt. Our team can promptly diagnose your condition and initiate appropriate treatment.
We typically recommend rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) within the first 24-48 hours to reduce swelling and pain. Depending on the severity of your sprain, we may also prescribe crutches or a walking boot to offload weight from your injured ankle.
2. Start rehabilitation exercises early
After a period of rest, we recommend introducing rehabilitation exercises to restore ankle strength, stability, and range of motion. You work with a physical therapist, who develops a structured rehabilitation program designed to get you moving safely
Your exact physical therapy program will vary based on your needs, but you can expect a combination of exercises to improve ankle strength, balance, proprioception (awareness of joint position), and overall joint flexibility.
3. Gradually increase weight-bearing activities
As you progress through rehabilitation, our team gradually increases weight-bearing activities in your program to help recondition your ankle joint. A few examples of weight-bearing exercises are single-leg balancing, calf raises, and lateral movements.
By progressively challenging your ankle in a safe and controlled manner, you improve joint stability and reduce your risk of future sprains.
4. Wear supportive footwear
Choosing the right footwear can make a significant difference in preventing future sprains and chronic ankle instability. Opt for shoes that provide adequate ankle support, cushioning, and stability.
Avoid wearing worn-out or inappropriate shoes that lack proper support, because they can increase your risk of re-injury.
5. Consider ankle braces or taping
If you have a history of ankle problems, we might recommend taping or wearing ankle braces during sports and physical activities. These measures can offer extra support and stability, helping prevent excessive ankle movement and protect your joint from potential injuries.
Remember to talk with our team to determine the best type of ankle brace or taping method for your specific needs.
6. Build ankle strength and flexibility
Even when your ankle starts to feel better, continue strength and flexibility training. We can incorporate new exercises into your rehab program that target the muscles around your ankle, including your calves, peroneals, and anterior tibialis.
Always stretch your ankles gently before and after activity to maintain flexibility and range of motion.
7. Gradually return to physical activities
Don’t jump back into activities too quickly after an ankle sprain. When you work with our team at Manhattan Orthopedics, we monitor your progress to ensure you’ve regained sufficient strength, stability, and confidence in your ankle before engaging in high-intensity activities.
Although it can be tempting to rush your recovery process, a gradual return helps minimize your risk of re-injury and promote long-term ankle health.
No one likes getting injured. By taking a proactive approach to healing, you can lower your risk of chronic ankle instability after a severe sprain — and enjoy a more active lifestyle after recovery.
To learn more about ankle sprain treatment schedule an appointment at Manhattan Orthopedics in Astoria, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, New York. Call the office nearest you, or request an appointment online.