Not So Surprising: Why Ankles Become Unstable

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

The element of surprise can be thrilling or frustrating, depending on the context. A surprise gift, a surprise party, or a surprise drop on a rollercoaster at one of the theme parks around Houston can all be exciting and fun, even though you weren’t prepared for those things. Your ankle suddenly giving out under you is not a nice kind of surprise—it can be painful and cause joint damage. Unfortunately, unstable ankles can twist and collapse without warning. These joints don’t just get wobbly at random, though. Ankle instability is a chronic complication of ankle injuries.

You develop unstable ankles when either a sprain doesn’t heal correctly, or you repeatedly sprain the same lower limb. This is because the resulting damage to the supporting ligaments that manage your ankles never really heals. Instead, your ligaments are left loose and ineffective.

Why do these ligaments matter? Well, they are responsible for holding together the bones that make up your ankle. They are only slightly stretchy, so they help keep the joint stable under pressure. This allows you to stay supported and secure when you stand, walk, or otherwise use your foot to push off the ground. Ligaments that are too loose can’t support your feet the way in which you need.

This can lead to a painful and self-perpetuating problem. An unstable ankle that doesn’t heal after a sprain is more likely to twist and give out suddenly on an uneven surface or when you’re actively pushing off the ground. Not only does this cause chronic pain and swelling, but it damages the ligaments even further, making them more unstable. This, of course, increases the likelihood that your ankle will give out again in the future, perpetuating and worsening your overall ankle instability.

If you have uncomfortably unstable ankles, don’t despair. Our team at Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX, can help you manage the instability and address the related discomfort. The longer you wait, though, the worse the problem can become. Call (281) 497-2850 to make an appointment with us today. You can also use our online forms.

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