Foot & Ankle Surgery located in Fort Worth and Weatherford, TX

How to Keep a Sprained Ankle From Becoming Chronic Instability

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How to Keep a Sprained Ankle From Becoming Chronic Instability

Did you know that a single ankle sprain increases your chance of subsequent sprains by 40-70%? Just one sprain can also lead to a lifetime of chronic ankle instability. Prevent that by learning the dos and don’ts of proper rehabilitation.

There’s no shortage of ways to sprain your ankle, from sports accidents to high-heel mishaps. And once you do, the chance of reinjuring it increases by up to 70%. Even worse, just one sprained ankle can quickly turn into chronic ankle instability

At Trinity Foot & Ankle Specialists in Fort Worth, TX, our board-certified podiatrists and ankle and foot surgeons help patients fully recover from ankle sprains and prevent recurrences.

Read on to learn the steps they recommend to ensure your ankle sprain doesn't turn into chronic instability. 

How chronic ankle instability develops

When you sprain your ankle, one or more ligaments, the thick bands that connect your bones, are stretched beyond their usual capability. Ankle sprains range in severity from a minor stretch to severe one that includes small tears. In the worst cases, the ligament or ligaments rupture.

In addition to connecting the bones of your joints, ligaments are responsible for holding these bones in their correct position and providing stability. 

Typically, a mild sprain causes moderate-to-severe pain and only temporarily weakens your joint. But when the ligaments don’t heal properly, even a mild sprain can cause you to develop chronic ankle instability.

Once the ankle joint loses stability due to weak ligaments, your risk for more sprained ankles increases, creating an ongoing cycle. In time, chronic ankle instability can damage the bones and cartilage in your ankle, leading to arthritis.

The most crucial step in ensuring your total recovery after a sprained ankle is taking enough time to let your ligament heal fully. Other essential tips from our experts:

Begin the RICE protocol immediately

Mild, moderate, and severe sprains benefit from the RICE protocol, which is designed to minimize swelling. Take these steps as soon as possible following the injury.


Protect your ligament and let it start healing by taking a break from activities.  


To minimize pain and swelling, apply an ice pack immediately. Keep the ice pack on for 10-20 minutes, at least three times per day for the first two to three days following your ankle sprain.


Also, manage swelling by wrapping an elastic bandage around the ankle. A wrap offers the added benefit of providing some stabilization.


Keep the injured ankle elevated while applying ice and any time you can. The goal is to keep your foot at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Seek a professional evaluation

If your ankle hurts when bearing weight, schedule an immediate appointment with Trinity Foot & Ankle Specialists. You should also seek an evaluation if the swelling lasts longer than a few days. Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions about whether treatment is necessary.

Take a break

Unless your sprain is exceptionally mild, the worst thing you can do — and the likeliest path to developing ongoing instability — is to continue using your ankle and engaging in your normal activities.

Whether you are an athlete or have a job that requires physical activity, staying off your ankle can be challenging. Still, our team recommends an initial period of immobilization to ensure you make a full recovery and rebuild optimal ligament strength.

You’ll need to keep weight off your ankle for 7-10 days in most cases. If your sprain is moderate or severe, you’ll likely receive a walking boot or cast to protect and immobilize your ankle as it heals. .

Rehabilitate gradually

Restoring full ligament strength requires gradual rehabilitation. Putting stress on the ligament too soon is among the most common causes of ongoing instability. Typically, it takes at least six weeks for a ligament to heal.

Our experts advise patients to start rehabilitation as soon as it’s safe. Patients begin with exercises to improve the ankle’s range of motion. Once the swelling and pain go down, restoration advances to include activities to strengthen the ankle.

If you participate in regular or competitive sports, your rehabilitation program may include additional exercises specific to your workouts. Your doctor at Trinity Foot & Ankle Specialists may advise that you wear a functional brace to stabilize your ankle and prevent it from retwisting as you resume normal activities. During rehabilitation, you also focus on rebuilding strength in your leg and foot muscles since they are essential to adequately supporting your ankle.

Assess your foot biomechanics

Most patients sprain their ankle by twisting it on uneven ground or while playing sports that require sudden stops and turns. However, problems in your foot can also contribute to a sprained ankle. We’ll assess your foot biomechanics and structure during your recovery and recommend treatment if needed to prevent future ankle sprains.

Request an appointment online or call our office today to treat ankle sprains and all your podiatric care.