Is It an Ankle Sprain or Fracture?

One of the most common injuries is an ankle sprain. When you sprain your ankle, the ligaments that support it stretch or tear, making the ankle unstable and painful. Some people aren’t sure when (or if) their physical activity has caused an ankle sprain or something more serious. Here’s how to tell:

Think about the moment you were injured. If you were moving slowly as with walking or jogging, or if you felt a tearing sensation, it’s probably a sprain that may heal with the right care. But if you were moving at top speed as with running or skiing, or if the injury is accompanied by a popping or snapping sound, it’s likely a bone fracture and required immediate medical help.

Is there swelling, bruising and tenderness? If it’s a sprain, your ankle will become swollen almost immediately, and in most cases, is accompanied by bruising and tenderness.

Can you put weight on it? Gently stand up and put a bit of weight on your ankle. If it’s sprained, it often feels unstable. The sprain may be more severe if you can’t put any weight on it at all without excruciating pain. This could also indicate a fracture.

Know the Signs of an Ankle Fracture
Ankle fractures most often occur in high-speed ankle injuries for active people or falling injuries in the elderly population. Recognizing the signs of a fracture is the first step to determine the level of medical treatment required. A fractured ankle will:

• Be extremely painful and unstable
• Be accompanied by a popping or snapping sound at the moment of injury
• Cause an obvious deformity to the foot or ankle
• Make it extremely difficult (or impossible) to walk

Whether your injury is a sprain or a fracture, it’s best to contact your doctor. If you suspect it’s a sprain, there are things you can do while waiting to see the doctor. To help with pain management, take anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, Motrin or Advil, and think of the acronym RICE, which stands for the following:

  • Rest. Stay immobile as much as possible.
  • Ice. Ice the joint gently for 15-20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression. You can create a temporary splint to set your ankle in its normal position by using cardboard and an elastic bandage. Just be sure not to wrap it too tightly, and use a figure eight motion when applying the bandage.
  • Elevate. Resting your ankle in an elevated position using pillows, for example, will help reduce pain and swelling.

To learn more about our Foot and Ankle services, please contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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