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Foor and Ankle care with Panorama Ortho

When Ankle Instability Stops You in Your Tracks

Posted on January 4, 2021

Physical therapists are obviously a fan of conservative intervention. However, there comes a time when physical therapy can only take you so far. One physical therapist tells her story of worsening ankle instability after several significant ankle sprains playing college sports. She steps through the signs and symptoms of an unstable ankle and what she did to get on the road to recovery.

The first step in her journey was working hard at physical therapy for her ankle. Therapy sessions included strengthening exercises, balance exercises and practicing control with dynamic movement. However, even after significant therapy, when she wasn’t paying attention- the smallest crack in the ground would cause her ankle to roll.  That continued instability, coupled with some additional signs, helped her to decide to move forward with surgery to correct the ankle instability once and for all. Some of the things that led to that decision included:

  • Weakness and pain that was worsening and eventually she started losing strength and the ability to push off her foot while running. There would be sharp pains and then random soreness and irritation. Often with ankle instability your body works hard to compensate with any and every muscle it can. Instability can present with tightness in the muscles in your shin or outside of your ankle or even be related to knee pain.
  • She no longer trusted her ankle. She had to slow down on rocky descents hiking and climbing because of several falls that lead to hand injuries. She found herself paying attention to every step. Ligaments in the ankle provide proprioception – your body’s ability to know where it is in space. When the ligaments are stretched out and torn, this function of proprioception is impaired or missing. Your brain doesn’t signal the muscles in your lower extremity to fire and stay upright when the ankle starts to roll. This can lead to more significant falls and more sprains.
  • She gave therapy a chance to build back the strength in the ankle and resolve the instability, but the incidence of small ankle rolls still increased. It no longer would even swell which is evidence that her body no longer even considered this as an injury since it was so common and there was so much motion in the joint. The risks that come along with this level of instability include: fibular fracture or other foot bone fractures, injuries to the upper body trying to catch a fall and other possible secondary injuries. The ankle joint itself is also at increased risk for arthritis due to the excess movement in the joint.

Even people in the medical field who specialize in injury prevention and rehabilitation hit a road block sometimes and need to look further to find alternative interventions.  She is thankful that when therapeutic intervention alone was not successful in returning her ankle to a healthy and strong state, that she could trust the surgeons at Panorama to take it to the next level and repair her ankle. The therapy helped so that she could be as strong as possible going into the surgery to allow for a smoother recovery. Sometimes surgery in conjunction with physical therapy can be the best step towards a future without limitations, so that you can stay active and participate in the things that are important to you! If you need help with ankle instability trust the team at Panorama to help you get back on your feet.