3131 Nassau St Suite 101 Everett, WA 98201
(425) 339-8888
Fax (425) 258-6933

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Ankle Instability

What Is Ankle Instability?

Ankle instability is a “giving way” feeling that one feels on the outside of the ankle. This feeling will often force the patient to constantly guard the ankle with muscle splinting to avoid spraining the ankle.

This condition generally develops after repeated ankle sprains. Usually the “giving way” occurs while walking or doing other activities, but is usually aggravated with walking on uneven ground.


Ankle instability usually develops following an ankle sprain that has not adequately healed or was not rehabilitated completely. When an ankle is sprained, the ankle ligaments are torn or stretched. The result is a progressive loss of balance. In mild cases, proper rehabilitation is needed to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and “retrain” the tissues within the ankle that affect balance. Otherwise further ankle sprains will persist.

Disease Progression

As ligament function is compromised, the ankle joint can start to degenerate. This at first may result in ankle spur formation of minor cartilage injury that is localized.  If the ankle instability lasts for years to decades end stage arthritis can develop.


The condition is fairly easy to evaluate and confirm the diagnosis. Clinical examination combined with x-rays will usually allow the condition severity to be determined. If conservative treatments are not successful in controlling the instability, then surgical intervention can be performed to repair or reconstruct the ligaments. In cases of instability with end stage arthritis, then ankle fusion or ankle replacement is a consideration.

Conservative Treatments

There are obvious conservative treatments for ankle instability including:

  • Home exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Ankle braces (custom and over-the-counter)
  • High top shoes

These treatments focus on the symptoms of instability and do not address the underlying ligament damage.

Can surgery address ankle instability?

Yes damaged ligaments can be repaired to address ankle instability and delay the progression of ankle arthritis in many cases.


We are your Seattle area Ankle Specialists; we treat the full spectrum of ankle conditions simple to complex.  Whether you are in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Bothell, Arlington, Mount Vernon, or Whidbey Island call us today to make an appointment and we can educate you on ankle ligament problems and better yet solutions!

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