How Do I Know if I Have An Ankle Fracture or an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle injury is bound to happen at some point in your life since ankle injuries are extremely common. When you do experience an ankle injury, the best thing to do is visit our top foot and ankle doctor in Phoenix to receive an accurate diagnosis for the proper treatment plan.

The right treatment is important since your injury could either be an ankle fracture or an ankle sprain. And when left untreated, extensive injuries could develop. So, what is the difference between an ankle fracture and an ankle sprain?

An Ankle Fracture
Also known as a broken ankle, an ankle fracture is when one or more of the three bones of the ankle joints are broken.

The ankle is made up of three bones including the tibia, fibula, and talus. If any of these bones are broken, then you officially have an ankle fracture.

The tibia is the main bone of the lower leg and connects to the medial and inside of the ankle joint.

The fibula is a smaller bone and is parallel to the tibia, connecting the lateral outside of the ankle joint.

The talus is part of the lower ankle joint, near the foot.

What Causes an Ankle Fracture?
When your ankle gives away and is severely impacted, you could end up with an ankle fracture. This could be done by rolling your ankle while walking, twisting your ankle to the side while running, over flexing or overextending your ankle joints, or when your ankle joints suffer a strong force, usually caused by jumping.

What are the Symptoms of an Ankle Fracture?
The biggest indication of an ankle fracture is extreme pain and the inability to put pressure on your ankle.

Other symptoms include:

  • Additional toe and knee pain
  • Inability to walk
  • Swelling of the ankle
  • Bruising of the ankle
  • Deformities of the ankle bones

Ankle Fracture Treatment Options by a Foot and Ankle Doctor
Treatment for an ankle fracture is crucial. When your ankle is unstable, you could further damage the ligaments in your ankle if left untreated.

If you think you have an ankle fracture, visit a foot and ankle doctor to receive a thorough exam. You may need an x-ray to further confirm the fracture.

Your doctor will most likely recommend you to stay off of your injured ankle. In addition, use ice pack applications and elevate your ankle to help with the swelling. Surgery will be needed to realign the bones and then the use of a cast or splint.

Most ankle fractures take 4 to 8 weeks to heal. And some injuries may even need physical therapy or the use of orthotics.

An Ankle Sprain
An ankle sprain is less severe than a fracture. A sprain is when you tear or stretch one of the ankle ligaments. When your ankle is forced to move out of its normal position, it could partially or even fully tear the ligaments.

What Causes an Ankle Sprain?
Just like with an ankle fracture, you can suffer an ankle sprain by simply rolling your ankle while walking. The difference is, an ankle sprain is not as severe, meaning the force was not great enough to actually cause a bone break.

What are the Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain?
Most people who suffer from ankle sprains can still walk on their ankle, just with pain and possibly a limp.

Symptoms of an ankle sprain include a painful ankle, swelling around the ankle, and limited range of motion of the ankle and foot.

Ankle Sprain Treatment Options by a Foot and Ankle Doctor
Since a sprain is less severe than a fracture, the treatment is also less severe. Surgery is usually never required. However, if you don’t properly take care of your ankle sprain, it could lead to more damage.

With rest, ice applications, elevation, and possible physical therapy, you should be able to heal your ankle sprain within just a few weeks. Depending on the severity of the sprain, you may need orthotics as well.

When in doubt, it is always best to visit us at the Foot and Ankle Center of Arizona to properly examine your foot and ankle to get you back on your feet!