How to Know if Your Ankle Is Sprained or Broken

How to Know if Your Ankle Is Sprained or Broken

Your ankle is the meeting place for three bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus. The joint is essential to walking, standing, running, and just about any other action you do with your legs and feet. 

The ankle allows the foot to move up and down and side-to-side. Because it’s so moveable, it’s also vulnerable to injury. 

An estimated 187 ankle fractures occur per every 100,000 people each year. Even more common are ankle sprains, with over 2 million people experiencing this injury yearly. 

Ankle sprains and fractures share similar symptoms, so sometimes, it’s hard to know which injury you have. 

If you experienced an ankle injury, it’s wise to get immediate care to ensure you don’t end up with long-standing ankle weakness or complications. At Go Feet in Hammonton, Mays Landing, and Linwood, New Jersey, the experienced podiatric team can help if you’ve injured your ankle. 

Here’s what to consider when evaluating your injury. 

What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain occurs when you damage the ligaments in your ankle. Ligaments hold the bones together at the joint. As connective tissue, they have some mobility, but too much stretching causes a sprain.

What is an ankle fracture?

An ankle fracture means one (or more) of the three bones that make up the ankle joint have broken. 

If one bone is broken, you may think you just have a bad sprain. When multiple bones break, it can cause severe instability and make it almost impossible to walk. 

How do the symptoms differ?

Many of the symptoms, like swelling, inability to put weight on the joint, and pain, are similar. But certain clues about your injury can help you determine if you have a sprain or a fracture. These include:

Hearing a crack

If you don’t remember hearing a sound at the point of injury or if you heard a distinct pop, it’s more likely a sprain. A cracking sound indicates a fracture.

A misshapen ankle 

Both a sprain and fracture cause swelling, but an ankle that’s broken may look contorted. 

Feeling numbness

A sprained ankle HURTS. A fractured ankle also hurts but may also have some numbness and tingling. 

Location of the pain

If you feel pinpoint pain at the ankle bone, you probably have a fracture. Ankle sprain pain tends to be located in the soft tissue.

Treatment differences

If you’re pretty sure you have a mild sprain, the RICE method can help speed up your healing. RICE stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Over-the-counter pain medications can also help ease the pain as you rest and modify activity.

If your sprain seems more serious, you may need physical therapy and several weeks of rest. 

Don’t just assume you have an ankle sprain, though. It’s important to have your ankle injury examined because certain types of fractures may still allow you to walk. Without treatment, an ankle fracture or poorly healed sprain can lead to permanent ankle instability and future recurrent injuries. 

If you’ve injured your ankle, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable foot and ankle provider, like those at Go Feet. Call one of the convenient locations in the Hammonton, Mays Landing, and Linwood, New Jersey areas, or use the online tool to schedule. 

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