Knowing if you have broken or sprained your ankle is crucial to the healing process. In general, sprains are less serious and heal faster, but they still need medical attention. Fractures have a longer recovery, but they are less likely to heal on their own. If your injury is a fracture, you’ll need surgery to put a plate on the bone.
What Is an Ankle Sprain?
An ankle sprain is the most common type of injury to the joint. It can result from a direct blow or twisting your ankle. The most common sprain happens in the ligaments near the ankle joint. This can be in one of two places. Either the ligament will tear or the joint will be seriously overstretched.
The ligaments keep the bones in place during walking, running, and other physical activities. When you do something strenuous, your ligaments are put under a lot of stress. This can cause the ligament to tear or stretch too much. It’s also possible that you sprained your ankle because of poor shoes, slippery or uneven surfaces, or landing in a certain way.
When the ligament is torn, the tibia and fibula will rotate or shift out of place. If this happens, you will have severe pain and swelling. Depending on what ligament was torn, your ankle will turn outwards or inwards.
Here are the symptoms of an ankle sprain:
Treating Ankle Sprains
Although it may be tempting to put your foot back on the ground, you need to avoid moving your ankle. Moving it while it’s swollen or bruised can make it worse. If you feel pain when you move your ankle, you should see a doctor.
Apply ice to the injury as much as possible. It will help bring down swelling and relieve pain. You can also put a compression wrap on your ankle. This will hold it in place and keep the joint stable.
You can take over-the-counter pain medications for inflammation. You can also take acetaminophen if the pain is too severe. When you’ve been injured, it’s also important to rest as much as possible.
What Is a Broken Ankle?
An ankle fracture is a break of one or more of the bones of the ankle. It can be any of the bones in the foot, but most commonly it is the tibia or fibula. An ankle fracture is less common than a sprain, but it comes with much more severe symptoms.
When you break your ankle, it is more likely to be serious and more difficult to heal. When a fracture happens, the force is too much for the fibula or tibia. This can cause pieces of the bone to break off entirely, or it can cause the bone to bend or flex in the wrong way.
Here are the symptoms of a broken ankle:
Treating a Broken Ankle
If you break your ankle, you will need to go to the emergency room. If you have an obvious deformity, you’ll need to have x-rays taken and be examined by your doctor.
If you do have a broken ankle, then the treatment will likely involve a closed reduction, surgery, physical therapy, temporary immobilization using a cast, and some pain relievers to help manage the pain during your recovery.
The Bottom Line: The Importance of Knowing the Difference Between an Ankle Sprain and a Broken Ankle
While both of these injuries can be serious, a broken ankle requires much more time to recover after the initial injury. And, a broken ankle is more likely to require surgery in order to put the broken pieces of bone back into place.
If you suspect that you’ve broken your ankle, you should see a doctor right away. In general, it is better to err on the side of caution. While it’s important to know the difference between an ankle sprain and a broken ankle, it’s more important to get the right treatment after the injury.
Are You Looking for a Decatur Orthopedic Center in Atlanta, USA?
Our bone and joint specialists can help you with your broken ankle and other needs. Contact Atlanta Bone and Joint Specialists to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment!