Ankle Sprain vs. Fracture: How Do You Tell?

by | Mar 19, 2023

Ankle sprains and fractures are common injuries that can make walking unpleasant and challenging. Even though both injuries might be excruciatingly painful, you can tell which one you have since they differ significantly. Because each illness has different symptoms and available treatments, it is essential to understand the difference between a sprain and a fracture.

These injuries are usually brought about by routine physical activities. It is, therefore, complicated to avoid them since one cannot predict injury. As such, it is critical to determine what and how best to help the situation. This article discusses the differences between an ankle sprain and an ankle fracture and how to tell the two apart.

Difference Between Ankle Sprains and Ankle Fractures

An ankle sprain occurs when the ankle is bent or twisted beyond the normal range of motion, injuring the ligaments in the ankle joint. An ankle fracture is the breaking of one or several bones that make up the ankle joint.

Ankle Sprain Symptoms:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Swelling and sensitivity around the ankle joint
  • The ankle is unstable

Ankle Fracture Symptoms:

  • Pain that gets worse when you move about
  • Swelling and sensitivity
  • Bruising
  • Ankle joint stiffness or deformity
  • A popping sound at the time of the accident
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected foot
Person holding ankle due to an ankle injury like an ankle sprain or ankle fracture

When to Seek Help

If you experience discomfort, swelling, or difficulties using your ankle after an accident, it is vital to receive medical attention. If you have a sprain or fracture, seek medical care as soon as possible. Your doctor may require X-rays or other testing to establish the degree of the injury. 

The treatment combines immobilization, rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), physical therapy, and drugs to decrease discomfort and swelling. Severe ankle sprains or fractures may necessitate surgery.

Treatments Options

The treatment options for both types of ankle injuries depend on the type and the severity of the injury.

Treatment for Sprained Ankle:

  • Rest: Until the ankle is fully healed, avoid putting any weight on it.
  • Ice: To minimize swelling, apply ice packs for 20 minutes at a time, multiple times daily.
  • Compression: To compress the ankle and minimize swelling, wrap it in an elastic bandage.
  • Elevation: To lessen swelling, keep the ankle raised above the level of the heart.
  • Painkillers: Non – prescription drugs like ibuprofen can help lessen discomfort and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can demonstrate particular exercises to add strength and range of motion in the ankle.

Treatment for Fractured Ankle:

  • Immobilization: A cast or splint may be applied to keep the ankle in place while it heals.
  • Surgery: In some circumstances, surgery may be required to fix the damaged ankle bones.
  • Physical therapy: To assist the ankle in regaining its range of motion, flexibility, and strength, exercises and other therapies may be performed.
  • Painkillers: Ibuprofen and other painkillers can help lessen inflammation and pain.
  • Orthotics: Special shoe inserts may be employed to support the ankle and add further stability.

To provide the ankle joint with additional support and reduce the risk of re-injury, ankle braces are routinely employed. They relieve pressure on the strained ligaments and support and stabilize the ankle. Ankle braces can also be worn with physical therapy exercises to strengthen the ankle and speed up the healing process.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is frequently used to treat sprains and ankle fractures. The physical therapist will work with you to recover the ankle’s mobility, strength, and functionality. Physical treatment techniques include, for instance:

  • Range-of-motion exercises: These activities help the ankle restore its flexibility, mobility, and strength.
  • Exercises that increase stability include strengthening the tendons and muscles surrounding the ankle.
  • Coordination and balance might benefit from proprioception and balance exercises.
  • Cryotherapy: This treatment involves a cold compress to reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation.
  • Ultrasound: Using ultrasound therapy can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Manual therapy: This medical care uses hands-on techniques to loosen stiff joints and improve joint mobility.

MLS Laser Therapy

MLS laser therapy is becoming more and more used for the treatment of fractures and sprains of the ankle. Using light energy as a non-invasive therapy strategy can reduce pain and inflammation. Faster healing, less oedema, improved circulation, and overall tissue regeneration can all be helped by laser therapy. It can also help improve function, increase the range of motion, and lessen scar tissue formation.

Surgery for Severe Cases

For a severe ankle fracture or sprain, surgery can be recommended. The goal of surgery may be to repair damaged ligaments, stabilize the bones and joints, or reconstruct the broken ankle. The kind of surgery performed will depend on the type and extent of the damage.

Surgical choices include open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), arthroscopy, tendon repair, bone grafting, and ligament reconstruction. Our doctors will discuss your best course of action with you and go over the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Cast or Boot

In ankle sprains, a boot is frequently used to immobilize the ankle and reduce discomfort and swelling. Additionally, boot rehabilitation reduces the possibility of the ankle sustaining further damage. An ankle cast is routinely utilized to immobilize ankle fractures and minimize discomfort and oedema. By keeping the broken bones in proper alignment, a cast helps speed up rehabilitation.

Contact Us for Ankle Treatments

If you think you might have an ankle injury or sports injuries, you don’t have to go through them alone. We understand how scary and painful it can be, and we’re here to help. If you have a sprain or a fracture, our team of expert professionals can provide you with the support and treatment you need. 

We specialize in treating ankle sprains and fractures in people of all ages. Don’t hesitate to contact us today by calling (814) 472-2660 or through our contact form on our website. Our team is here to help you regain your feet and feel your best, so call today for help.