Lateral ankle instability is weakness of the ligaments supporting the outside of the ankle joint. Typically these ligaments become weakened after sustaining multiple low grade ankle sprains which cause the ligaments to become stretched out and filled with weak scar tissue, or during an acute injury leading to a complete or partial tear of one or several of the lateral ankle ligaments. Certain foot types, notably those with high arches, also have a predisposition to lateral ankle instability.
Lateral ankle instability will be noticed as a “weakness” in the ankle, or a “giving out” feeling. Patients may be able to roll their ankle easily. They may also notice a “clicking” sensation in their ankle joint, and pain and swelling at the outside of their ankles.
Issues present often include lateral ankle ligaments that are stretched out or torn, damage to the cartilage surfaces of the ankle joint, and overgrowth of the tissues lining the ankle joint. Various chemicals released by the body when tissues are damages may also have accumulated in the fluid in the ankle joint, along with pieces of broken off cartilage.
These issues can be treated conservatively via injections, ankle braces, and physical therapy. Rest, ice, elevation, compression, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxyn are helpful adjuncts as well.
Patients may also benefit from surgical treatment options to reinforce the lateral ankle ligaments, and also arthroscopic surgery of the ankle to remove inflamed tissues and dead cartilage.