Ankle sprains are a fairly common injury among all adults, but especially among sports enthusiasts. A chronically sprained ankle can really put a damper on activities. Sometimes even walking can be difficult. And an unstable ankle puts you at risk for other injuries of the lower extremity.
The first step is to have a medical exam and find out exactly what's wrong. The physician will use the history of injury and location of symptoms to decide what tests are needed.
Once the specific area of injury is identified, then special tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs can be ordered. An accurate diagnosis allows the physician to come up with the best plan of action for the problem at hand.
Many recurrent ankle sprains occur because some of the soft tissue structures have been damaged. This can include the ligaments, cartilage, and/or tendons. When the soft tissue structures don't hold the joint steady during motion, instability can occur.
The foot and ankle may give way during daily activities. Trying to move beyond that to sports and recreational fun may not be possible. Conservative care is usually advised first. Physical therapy to restore normal joint sensation and muscular strength is important.
Shoe wear will be evaluated. You may need a heel lift or wedge. Sometimes inserts inside the shoe are helpful. Splinting or bracing may be required. Many patients recover well after an adequate course of rehab.
If non-operative care is not successful in restoring pain free, stable, and full motion, then surgery may be needed. But before you hit the panic button, make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon and find out what's wrong first. There could be a simple solution available to get you back up on the slopes!