Physiotherapy Gold Coast

Chronic Ankle Instability vs CRPS

What is it?

Chronic ankle instability (CAI) is characterised by recurring “giving way” of the outer ankle, usually following a history of recurrent ankle sprains, and can happen with general movements like walking and standing. 

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is progressive pain syndrome usually developing after a trauma and is characterised by:

  • Continuing pain that is disproportionate to the original event
  • The presence of sensation, movement and circulatory changes which often cannot be easily explained


Chronic ankle instability usually develops following an ankle injury that has not properly healed or was not adequately rehabilitated so that there is ongoing ligament and muscle weakness, and poor proprioception. 

CRPS typically occurs as a result of trauma or injury.

Signs & Symptoms:

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Ankle Instability include:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Persistent discomfort and swelling 
  • Repeated turning or “giving way” of the ankle
  • Significant ligament laxity to the lateral ankle ligaments

Signs and Symptoms of CRPS include:

  • Disproportionate pain
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Oedema and sweating
  • Temperature and colour changes
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Movement dysfunction


Treatment for Chronic Ankle Instability will either consist of a progressive conservative rehabilitation strengthening program and/or a proprioceptive/balance training program. 

Treatment for CRPS involves an integrated pain management approach inclusive of education, medication and specific physiotherapy intervention.


CAI and CRPS treatment programs may take up to 6 months to see clear improvements in impairment, but the prognosis for both is good if treated early.

If you need help with pain or immobility to get you moving again, or need a tailored exercise program, book in for your treatment now with one of our exercise, physio, or pain specialists via 1300 012 273 or head to our website and book a session at your nearest clinic.