Chronic ankle instability – Why rehabilitation is so important

Chronic ankle instability is a condition characterised by persistent ankle instability, frequent ankle sprains, and a sense of giving way in the joint. While it may develop as a result of previous ankle sprains or ligament damage, the good news is that rehabilitation plays a crucial role in managing and improving this condition. In this blog, we’ll explore why rehabilitation is so important for chronic ankle instability and how it can help individuals regain stability and function in their ankles.

Understanding Chronic Ankle Instability:

Chronic ankle instability often stems from inadequate strengthening, and healing following an initial ankle sprain. When the ligaments around the ankle joint are torn or stretched, they need proper rehabilitation for them to heal properly, otherwise this can lead to instability in the joint. This instability can manifest as recurrent ankle sprains and or a feeling of “giving way” during activities that require balance and coordination.

The role of rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is essential for addressing chronic ankle instability for several reasons;

  1. Strengthening; Rehabilitation focuses on strengthening surrounding muscles of the ankle joint, including the calf, peroneal and foot muscles. By improving muscle strength, individuals can better support the ankles and reduce the risk of further injury.
  2. Proprioception; Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense its position in space. After an ankle injury, proprioception may be impaired, leading to decreased balance and coordination. Rehabilitation exercise, such as balance training and proprioceptive exercises help to improve proprioception, enhancing ankle instability and reducing the risk of  re-injury.
  3. Range of motion; Ankle injuries can lead to stiffness and reduced range of motion in the ankle. Rehabilitation can help to restore ankle mobility, through techniques such as stretching and joint mobilisations. 
  4. Biomechanics; In some cases, chronic ankle instability may be exacerbated by underlying biomechanical issues, such as flat feet or abnormal gait mechanics. Rehabilitation programs may include interventions to address these issues, such as gait retraining and a strength program to support joints. This will help to reduce strain on the ankle joint and to improve overall function. 

Rehabilitation strategies

A comprehensive rehabilitation program for chronic ankle instability may include the following components;

Strength training; Perform exercises that target the muscles around the ankle, including calf raises, resistance band exercises, toe curls and toe raises.

Balance and proprioception training; Proprioception and balance can be achieved by standing on a single leg and the difficulty can be determined by the addition of wobble boards, bosu balls, head turns, ball throws and many more. Agility drills are also important in this phase which will help to improve balance and coordination.

Flexibility and Range of Motion Exercises; Stretching exercises, movement and joint mobilisations are all ways to help to improve ankle flexibility and joint mobility.

Functional Training; Functional training are activities that mimic real-life movements and challenges. Stepping off a step, jumping, cutting, and pivoting, sit to stand, lunging and running are all aspects of movement that can be done to improve functional stability.

Education; Proper ankle care education can be provided by your physiotherapist. It is important to not sweep an ankle injury under the rug and to stay accountable to a proper rehabilitation program to reduce the risk of chronic ankle instability. 

Rehabilitation is a critical component of managing chronic ankle instability. By addressing muscle weakness, improving proprioception, restoring range of motion, and addressing biomechanical issues, rehabilitation programs can help individuals regain stability and function in their ankles, reducing the risk of recurrent injuries and improving quality of life. If you’re dealing with chronic ankle instability, consult a physical therapist at RHP Physiotherapy to develop a personalised rehabilitation plan tailored to your needs and goals. 

With dedication and consistency, rehabilitation can make a significant difference in your ankle health and overall well-being.

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