Whether you rolled an ankle on the court or off the curb, the ensuing pain and swelling tells you you’ve likely sprained your ankle — again. In the United States, about two million people sprain an ankle each year, making it one of the more common musculoskeletal injuries.
While most ankle sprains heal with a little time and rest, some people struggle with ongoing stability issues in their ankle, often leading to recurrent ankle sprains.
At William Schell, MD, Dr. Schell understands the difficulty that comes with chronic ankle instability — the joint can simply give way without warning. As a result, you’re not confident about walking to the corner market, never mind getting back into activities you once enjoyed.
If you want to step more confidently, surgery may be the best solution for correcting your chronic ankle instability.
How ankle instability develops
About 90% of ankle sprains involve the ligaments on the outside of your ankle — your lateral ligaments. When you incur an ankle sprain, these ligaments can tear, either partially or fully.
With rest, icing, and some physical therapy, most ankle sprains do heal on their own and don’t require surgery. Unfortunately, research shows that up to 40% of people who sprain an ankle develop chronic symptoms, such as pain, swelling, and instability, that persist for at least 12 months. Going a step further, about 20% of people with an acute ankle sprain develop chronic ankle instability.
The reason for this instability is that the ligaments didn’t heal properly after the initial injury and became loose and weak. As a result, your ankle isn’t supported well, leaving you far more vulnerable to recurrent sprains. As you can see, this creates a vicious cycle in which the ligaments in your ankle can become increasingly damaged.
How surgery can restore stability to your ankle
If you’ve tried physical therapy, bracing, and other conservative measures, but your ankle is still giving you problems, surgery may be a good option. While surgery for chronic instability is popular among athletes who want to get back in the game with ankles they can rely on, we also see plenty of people who just want to be able to walk down the street with more confidence.
We perform this type of surgery arthroscopically and usually on an outpatient basis, which means you’re free to return home afterward.
During your surgery, we make tiny incisions and insert a camera and specialized instruments that allow us to tighten your ligaments, giving your ankle more support.
Healing from this type of surgery depends upon the extent of the work we perform and how well you follow your postoperative instructions. Physical therapy (PT) plays a key role here, so we urge you to take this portion of your recovery very seriously.
If you follow your PT plan and don’t push your ankle too soon and too hard, you can get back to your previous ankle strength.
To learn more about surgery for chronic ankle instability and whether you’re a good candidate, please contact our New York City office — on the Upper West Side on Columbus Circle — to schedule an appointment.