Chronic Ankle Instability

Ankle sprains are one of the most common ankle injuries that we see at Kansas City Foot and Ankle and account for most ankle injuries nationwide.  An ankle sprain at its most basic level is a tear in the ligaments of the ankle that help hold the bones of the ankle in place.  These ligaments help stabilize the ankle when you walk.  After an ankle sprain, these ligaments generally heal appropriately with treatment but occasionally they do not heal correctly or completely. If the ligaments sustain long-term damage, the ankle can become loose and become prone to repeated sprains in the future.


Patients with unstable ankles notice it the most on uneven surfaces or during physical activities and often relate numerous ankle sprains over their lives, often with several sprains per year. These ankle sprains can cause further issues including damage to the ankle bones themselves, which over time can lead to arthritis. Tears in tendons of the foot and leg are also possible with an unstable ankle, as is the potential for fractures from rolling the ankle itself.


What are the symptoms of Chronic Ankle Instability?

  1. Pain and swelling on the outside of the ankle
  2. Repeated ankle sprains
  3. Sensation that the ankle is going to “give out” or feels “weak”
  4. Needing to rely on an ankle brace long-term to avoid ankle pain or weakness

How is Chronic Ankle Instability diagnosed?

The first step after a sprain or ankle injury is to see one of our specialists at Kansas City Foot and Ankle so that we can fully evaluate and assess your ankle. This should be done soon after an ankle sprain so that the ankle can be rehabilitated properly. X-rays are taken to evaluate for any potential fracture or bone injury to the ankle. An MRI may be needed to look at the ankle ligaments to see if they are torn and assess for any bone or cartilage damage that can’t be seen on a regular x-ray.

What are treatment options for Chronic Ankle Instability?

Nonsurgical treatments include:
  • Physical therapy
  • Bracing
  • Immobilization
  • Orthotics
  • Musculoskeletal Laser Treatments
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medication
Surgical treatments include:
  • Repairing or tightening the ligaments around the ankle joint
  • Ankle arthroscopy (Ankle scope) to assess the ligaments of the ankle, remove any inflammatory tissue, and repair the ankle ligaments

Surgery for chronic ankle instability has a high success rate and is almost always followed by physical therapy to fully rehabilitate the ankle.

If you think you have chronic ankle instability and struggle with repeated ankle sprains and ankle weakness, schedule an appointment with one of our ankle specialists at Kansas City Foot and Ankle to assess your ankle and begin your treatment today.