Many people have the common misconception that weak ankles are something that they are born with and that there is not much to be done about it. Too frequently I have heard patients say, “Oh yeah, doc, I sprain my ankles all the time. I just thought that I it was something that I had to live with.”
It is true that weak ankles or chronic ankle instability can be something that you are born with. There are a number of inherited conditions that can cause the ankles to be prone to sprain or “turn in” such as a heel bone that angles inward too much (rearfoot varus), high arches (cavus foot deformity), abnormal ankle joint or leg bone, and ligament laxity (loose ligaments). All of these causes are something that you may be genetically prone to have, but just because you are born with it does not necessarily mean that you have to live with it.
Ankle Sprains Cause Weak Ankles
Perhaps more frequently, the condition can be caused from an ankle sprain that did not heal properly. There is a complex ligament structure of the lateral (outside) ankle and any number of torn ligaments can cause pain and instability. Frequently, other structures such as tendons and even cartilage/bone in the ankle joint can be damaged or even dislodged and cause painful “popping” or “catching.” With severe or “high” ankle sprains, the structures in between the leg bones can fail and may require more complicated exams or treatments.
Weak Ankle Treatments
Thankfully, there are many treatments to alleviate this problem. Physical therapy and bracing are usually very effective at helping. Sometimes simply re-educating and properly strengthening your ankle can make the difference. When surgery is necessary, or when other treatments have failed, your surgeon can guide you through the process. Frequently the post operative course is the same as after you sprained your ankle the first time, only this time it is stronger, repaired and won’t sprain again.