Ankle fractures are one of the most common lower body injuries, frequently resulting from athletic injuries, falls, awkward steps off of curbs, car accidents, or even overuse. Sometimes the broken bone is obvious, to the point of breaking the skin. Other times, you may not know any bones are broken at all.
What is true is that all ankle fractures need prompt treatment in order to fully heal. Continuing to stand and walk on the broken ankle will only compound the damage, and possibly make a relatively simple problem much worse.
What Are the Symptoms of a Broken Ankle?
The symptoms of an ankle fracture can vary substantially based on the extent of the damage, as well as where the actual break is located—tibia, fibula, talus, or other bones that make up the ankle joint.
For a traumatic break, pain is usually immediate and severe, with swelling, bruising, and tenderness soon following. If the bones remain stable (or in other words, remain properly aligned), you may even mistake it for a bad sprain (which can also be present). However, unstable fractures can result in severe, obvious deformity, or even bone breaking the skin.
What to Do If You Think You’ve Broken Your Ankle
If you injure your ankle, don’t keep standing or walking on it. If the skin has been broken or pain is unbearable, please dial 911. In any case, you should make an appointment with Dr. Jason Wilks as quickly as possible for more thorough care.
During the period of time between the injury and your visit, you may use cold packs to assist with pain and swelling for periods of 20-30 minutes at a time. You should also try to keep the ankle elevated as much as possible.
Getting a Diagnosis
Before attempting any treatment procedures, it’s important to make a thorough diagnosis and analysis. Dr. Wilks will perform a thorough physical examination, as well as perform X-rays (we can do this in our office) to get a clear look at the location of the break and extent of the damage.
Treatment for Broken Ankles
Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, Dr. Wilks will take time to explain the nature of your injury and discuss options with you in detail. This way we can mutually arrive at a course of treatment that makes the most sense for you.
The majority of ankle fractures are relatively stable, meaning that even though one or more bones may be cracked or broken, they remain in correct alignment—or close enough that the can be repositioned manually. This type of fracture can usually be treated without surgical intervention.
However, the joint will need to be immobilized and protected to avoid setbacks during the healing process. Depending on the location and severity of the break, this could be accomplished using a short leg cast, longer cast, brace, or walking boot. In the short term, you’ll need crutches or a wheelchair to help you around without putting any weight on the injured ankle.
A typical fracture requires 1-2 months to heal. As you continue to get better, our office will make sure you have clear instructions for when you can begin weight-bearing activity again, along with physical therapy and exercises designed to help you recover strength and range of motion.
Unfortunately, sometimes surgery is required to fix a severe broken ankle, particularly those with bones that have become badly misaligned. If we determine that surgery is required in your case, we’ll connect you with another specialist who can help you further. Our office coordinates closely with area ankle surgeons to ensure that you continue to receive uninterrupted, high quality care for all your foot and ankle health needs.