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What is Chronic Ankle Instability?

What is Chronic Ankle Instability?


Chronic ankle instability describes repeated episodes of instability causing recurrent ankle sprains. Chronic instability develops sometimes after a single severe ankle sprain or more often after multiple less severe ankle sprains. In this position, the ligaments of the lateral ankle ligament complex are stretched and tear or completely rupture. When this occurs, lateral support to the ankle is lost or severely compromised.

Symptoms of chronic ankle instability include:

  • Repeated inversion (turning in) of the ankle on uneven surfaces when playing sport requiring directional changes
  • Persistent discomfort and swelling
  • Pain and tenderness
  • A wobbly or unstable feeling around the ankle

If left untreated, chronic ankle instability will often develop. Also cause further changes around the ankle such as arthritis, synovitis, scar tissue formation and tendon inflammation or tears.

Mechanical insufficiencies such as high arches, generalised ligament laxity or plantarflexion of the first toe can predispose individuals to the development of chronic instability. Biomechanical insufficiencies can also lead to chronic instability. Example of this are poor proprioception, poor calf and foot muscle strength or poor movement patterns when walking/running/playing sport

A physiotherapist and a weight bearing x-rays are the ways to diagnose chronic ankle instability.


Management of chronic ankle instability normally starts with conservative treatment, under the guidance of a physiotherapist. This includes strengthening of the muscles that support the lateral ankle and prevent excessive inversion (turning in). Proprioceptive training is also extremely important when trying to rehab an unstable ankle. Proprioception describes an individual’s sense of where their ankle is in space. This entails simple single leg balance exercises and progressing onto doing these exercises on a wobble board/bosu ball while performing more complex movement patterns. The use of taping or bracing can be useful to maintain correct ankle alignment in the initial stages of rehab or when returning to sport.

If you use the correct rehabilitation, you will not need to have an operation.

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of chronic ankle instability or would like advice on how best to rehabilitate and strengthen your ankle, contact us here. Our physiotherapists are all experienced in dealing with this type of injury and can help get you on the road to recovery quickly.



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