Here’s something we tell our patients over and over again:
Don’t underestimate an ankle sprain.
We don’t say this just because we want you to come see us. (Although we do want you to come see us!) We say it because ankle injuries are serious business, and failing to treat a sprained ankle properly as soon as you can may set you on a path you probably don’t want to go down.
What does that path look like?
- More sprains
- Ligaments that get looser and looser after each sprain, until your entire ankle feels wobbly and about to give way
It makes intuitive sense. Consider the hinge on a laptop that you’ve been using every day for years. It probably wobbles a bit, right? Likewise, if you keep stretching and tearing the ligaments that support your ankle joint, they might not knit back together as tight or secure as they used to be.
Now obviously, given the choice, you’d probably want to bail off this road before you get too far along. That’d be our recommendation as well. But that’s not what this blog is about.
Let’s say you’ve already missed a few exit signs. You’ve had some previous history with ankle sprains. Maybe you didn’t get the treatment you needed, or gave up on your rehab exercises early, and the ankle never really fully healed properly. Or maybe it was just one really bad sprain, from one really bad accident.
Either way, you’ve now noticed that your ankle is starting to really feel unstable. In fact, frequently when you try to walk or play sports—or even sometimes when you’re just standing around—the outside of your ankle feels like it’s about to give way.
The whole area is painful and tender and frequently swollen. Stairs and uneven surfaces are your new personal nightmare.
Well then, we have some bad news and some good news for you.
The bad news is that you’re probablygoing to need ankle reconstruction surgery to repair the damage and restore stability to your joint.
The good newsis that ankle reconstruction is highly successful on average, you’ve got a great team of doctors at Carmel Foot Specialists to help you, and if you take your recovery and rehab seriously you can look forward to making a complete return to all your favorite physical activities.
Is There A Way to Avoid Surgery?
The bestway to avoid surgery is to invent a time machine, then go back and avoid getting a sprain in the first place—or at least make sure you treat it properly.
That’s not an option, unfortunately. Still, if we think there is a chance that non-surgical remedies may sufficiently re-stabilize the joint and allow you to safely enjoy your preferred lifestyle, we are happy to pursue them.
The major component here is physical therapy—stretching, strength training, balance training, etc. We’ll instruct you on which exercises to perform, and how often, to give yourself the best chance at making a recovery.
Bracing and orthotics are also often considered to add external stability for a wobbly ankle.
We might also recommend additional regenerative treatments to aid and accelerate tissue repair. For example:
However, if your ankle instability is severe—or non-surgical treatments have not been successful at properly re-strengthening your joint—we will typically move on to surgical options.
So, What Is Ankle Reconstruction Surgery?
The truth is that there’s not one single specific procedure that works in every situation. Instead, we’ll develop a surgical plan customized to meet your needs best. Factors such as the severity of the ankle instability and your long-term lifestyle goals may dictate which specific procedures we recommend.
We use arthroscopic surgery in the majority of these cases. In this technique, a small camera on the end of a tube is inserted via a small incision, and enables us to evaluate and operate without needing to make a big open incision. This offers many benefits, including:
- More thorough evaluation of the joint (so we can identify any unseen problems or defects that might not have shown up clearly on an X-ray, and account for them in the surgical plan)
- Faster recovery time
- Lower risk of infection
The most basic approach is to simply tighten the overstretched ligaments and then stitch the torn ends back together and re-attach them to the fibula. However, we will often reinforce this repair using a transferred ligament or tendon from elsewhere.
Once the surgery is complete, you’ll likely be in a cast for at least two weeks. Thereafter, you’ll be put on a rehab plan and gradually be able to perform more weight-bearing activities and return to more physically demanding tasks, as your doctor allows.
It’s important not to repeat the mistakes that may have led you to this situation in the first place! Please take your rehabilitation seriously and follow all your post-surgical instructions to the letter. Don’t move on to the next level until we give you the all clear, even if you think you’re feeling better.
We know you’re itching to get back to all your favorite activities—and we promise, we want you to get there as quickly as possible, too! That’s what your rehab plan is there for.
If you’ve had at least one bad sprain in your past and find that your ankle has a distressing tendency to feel like it’s about to give way, please contact Carmel Foot Specialists today. Our resident ankle expert Dr. Lind—or any of our friendly, knowledgeable staff—will be happy to see you and ensure you get the care you need.
Simply call your preferred office to get started:
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253