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Ankle Instability/Sprains

When the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched too far and tear, the result is a sprained ankle. Sprains can be mild or severe, depending on how badly the ligaments have torn.

What causes Ankle Instability or a Sprain?

Ankle sprains can happen to anyone at any age. They’re often the result of an injury that happens when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an awkward way. Ligaments help stabilize joints and prevent excessive movement, and a sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments are forced beyond their normal range of motion. If you do not seek proper treatment for an ankle sprain, your ankle can weaken, and you’ll be prone to instability and more frequent sprains.

How do you know you have Ankle Instability or a Sprain?

The signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle vary depending on the severity, but they’re fairly standard and can’t be ignored:

  • Pain, especially when you bear weight on the affected foot
  • Tenderness when you touch the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Instability in the ankle
  • Popping sensation or sound at the time of injury

How does OSI fix Ankle Instability or a Sprain?

An OSI foot and ankle specialist will talk with you about how you injured your ankle, examine you for signs and symptoms of an ankle sprain or instability, and create a treatment that best gets you pain-free and active again. Your OSI specialist will do the following to help assess the severity of the ankle injury: 

  • Physical exam: Your OSI doctor will press around the ankle to determine which ligaments are damaged and where the pain occurs. The doctor may also test your range of motion.
  • X-rays: Your OSI foot expert might order X-rays to rule out a broken bone in your ankle or foot, because a broken bone causes similar symptoms. If there is no broken bone, your sprain will be graded on a mild, moderate, or severe scale.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Most all ankle sprains can be treated without surgery, and it typically occurs in three phases:

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) Protocol
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen to help control pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy to restore range of motion, strength, and flexibility. Your OSI doctor can give recommendations on exercises you can do at home and may also recommend you see a physical therapist right at OSI.
  • Maintenance exercises and a gradual return to activity 
  • Endurance and agility exercises can be added once you are pain free

Surgical Treatment

An ankle sprain almost never requires surgery. However, if you experience months of chronic ankle instability or the sprain is severe enough, surgical options could be discussed. Ankle surgery options include arthroscopy or reconstruction depending on the severity of the injury. Your OSI orthopedic surgeon will discuss all surgical options so you can decide on what’s best for you.


Recovery from an ankle sprain is typically no longer than 12 weeks, even for the most severe sprains. If surgery is required, your OSI orthopedic surgeon may place a cast or boot on your foot to immobilize and protect your ankle. Rehab and physical therapy, which you can get right at OSI, is essential to help you regain strength and range of motion so you can return to normal activities.