Why Is Your Ankle Unstable, and What Can You Do?

When you step on your foot, does your ankle feel like it's going to give out? It might feel like your leg is about to bow out to the side, or maybe like your ankle is about to collapse under you. This sensation is known as ankle instability, and it is not something you should ignore. It often happens after an ankle injury, such as if you take a bad step or twist your ankle. Here's a look at what causes ankle instability and what you can do about it.

What causes ankle instability?

Ankle instability is generally caused by a tear or sprain of the ligaments that lie to the outside of the ankle. There are two ligaments in this region. The first is called the anterior talofibular ligament and connects the talus to the fibula. The second is called the calcaneofibular ligament and connects the calcaneus to the fibula. These ligaments are supposed to keep your ankle bones and fibula in place, relative to one another, as you walk. If they are injured, then the bones won't feel stable against one another.

What should you do about ankle instability?

Ankle instability may simply mean you've strained one or both of these ligaments badly, or it may mean you have a tear. It's impossible to know without images of the ankle. So, you should see a doctor about this problem — an orthopedic doctor, if possible.

The doctor will either take an MRI or an ultrasound of your ankle so they can visualize the two ligaments in question. If they find that you just have a sprain, you'll probably be advised to stay off your feet for a few weeks. You may be given a boot to wear for stability, and perhaps told to ice and elevate the ankle daily.

If you have a tear in either ligament, you may require surgery. Tears in ligaments are notoriously slow to heal without surgery. While surgery may seem scary, surgery to repair a torn ankle ligament is pretty routine these days. Most orthopedists perform it through two or three tiny incisions and with a regional anesthetic, which means you remain awake during the procedure.

Ankle instability is not something to ignore. You may or may not have an actual tear in your ligament, but you need to see an orthopedist to find out. Once you have a specific diagnosis, you can move into the treatment stage. Reach out to a doctor such as Dr. Mark Drakos Orthopedic Surgeon to find out more.