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Chronic Ankle Instability - Repetitive Ankle Sprains

If you’ve suffered years of ongoing ankle injuries, you’re not alone. Next to chronic lower back & neck pain, ongoing ankle instability is a very common injury we see.

We tend to find the most common type of patient's presenting with chronic ankle instability are football/soccer players, netballers, tennis, basketball and rugby players.

This blog post is written by Sports Physiotherapist Aaron, who works out of our Chatswood & Mosman locations at Infinite Health Group.

Aaron has suffered many ankle sprains himself when younger, having been a keen rugby player, so knows all too well what's like to go from initially rolling your ankle, to being frustrated with re-doing it at a latter time.

A common mistake people make with this condition, Aaron mentioned:

"Not getting in to see a physio earlier on enough, and thus delaying their return to sport as a result, together with not completing adequate enough mid to end stage rehabilitation" – Sports Physiotherapist

So, hopefully by the end of this blog post you'll know what it is, how to fix it, and who you might need to see for some help along the way... Let's get into it!

What is Chronic Ankle Instability (CAI)?

CAI is a condition characterized by repetitive episodes or perceptions of the ankle giving way, ongoing symptoms such as pain, weakness, or reduced ankle range of motion, and recurrent ankle sprains that persist for more than 1 year after the initial injury.

When an ankle is chronically unstable, this usually means a few things have made it a chronic condition:

  • Your ankle ligamentous structures are inherently more lax, and therefore more stretchy - not a good thing for a joint which requires a lot of stability, hence increasing the ankle joint’s instability.

  • You’ve had one or a series of traumatic events where those ligaments never re-tightened to their initial formation, thus causing ongoing joint instability.

  • You’ve not committed to seeing your rehab through from start to finish!

What actually happens to the ankle when it is chronically strained?

When you experience recurrent strains to the ankle joint, these ligaments become more stretched & strained every time they receive this trauma - up to 40% of individuals develop CAI after a first time ankle sprain. A byproduct of this is the ankle muscles also begin to deteriorate overtime if you do not strengthen the area.

How do I fix CAI?

The good news is that there is extensive research which has proved that exercise therapy is helpful for the treatment and prevention of chronic ankle instability. The ligament usually involved is the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), and sometimes the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) - both are located on the outer part of your ankle. When prescribing exercises, we aim to target these ligaments as closely as possible as well as its surrounding musculature to stabilize the ankle as well as possible.

Click on the button below to see what type exercises could help with your CAI:

Should I see a professional for my chronic instability?

Since ankle rehabilitation requires a precise assessment to understand the type & variations of exercises required for your instability, it is best to catch up with a professional. Our Physios would be the best to see if you’re currently experiencing pain - they will be able to kick-start your healing process through manual therapy, and ensure your exercise rehabilitation is appropriate to your injury. Click below to read more!

However, if you just feel unsteadiness/weakness of your ankle, then our Exercise Physiologist will be your best option, as they are specialise in exercise rehab for mid-end stage return to sport. Click below to learn more!

We hope you enjoyed the read!

If you'd like to read more of our educational articles then click here


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