Do I Have a Broken or Sprained Ankle?

JOI Treats Broken and Sprained AnklesImage of an Ankle Injury

Is My Ankle Broken or Just Sprained?   

By: Robert Lim PTA/PES

One of the most common injuries in sports and everyday activities are injuries to the ankle.  How do you know the difference between a broken or sprained ankle?  To roll or sprain your is ankle is quite common.  It is often difficult to tell if you have just sprained your ankle or you have broken or fractured it. The severity of the injury can often be determined by the amount of swelling and pain after the injury. Often, after a severe ankle sprain or a broken ankle the injured person also hears a “pop” or “snap” in their ankle. A broken ankle or a fracture to the ankle can be determined by an x-ray. On the lateral or outside aspect of the ankle the fibula or lateral malleolus can be fractured. This usually occurs with a twisting type motion of the ankle. 

Ankle Sprain

On the inside of the ankle the medial malleolus or tibia can also be fractured as well as the talus. The severity of the ankle fractures determines the treatment. Some can be treated with immobilization, while others may need surgical intervention. An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur among people of all ages.

What is an Ankle Sprain? 

 They range from mild to severe, depending upon how much damage there is to the ligaments. Most sprained ankles occur in the lateral ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Ankle sprains can range from tiny tears in the fibers that make up the ligament to complete tears through the tissue. If there is a complete tear of the ligaments, the ankle may become unstable after the initial injury phase passes. Over time, this instability can result in damage to the bones and cartilage of the ankle joint.  Your foot can twist unexpectedly during many different activities, such as walking or exercising on an uneven surface, participating in sports that require cutting actions or rolling and twisting of the foot—or someone else may step on your foot while you are running, causing your foot to twist or roll to the side. If there is severe tearing of the ligaments, you might also hear or feel a "pop" when the sprain occurs. Symptoms of a severe sprain are similar to those of a broken bone and require prompt medical evaluation. A sprained ankle is painful. Other symptoms may include swelling, bruising, tenderness to touch or instability of the ankle.  Most sprains are minor injuries that heal with home treatments like rest and applying ice and compression to reduce the pain and swelling. However, if your ankle is extremely swollen and painful to walk on — or if you are having trouble putting weight on your ankle at all, be sure to see an orthopedic doctor. 

Treatment of Ankle Sprains

Without proper treatment and physical therapy, a more severe sprain can weaken your ankle—making it more likely that you will injure it again. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.  A good rehabilitation program can help prevent further injury by strengthening the structures around the ankle and improving the proprioception.  Often, a physician may prescribe a brace to help protect the ankle from further sprains or fractures.  At JOI, our physicians and trainers use ASO brand of ankle braces.  If you want to learn more about a broken ankle or a sprained ankle, go to  JOI also has videos to learn more about the ankle and foot anatomy.  Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a sprain of the foot and other cause of foot pain.

If you want to learn more about Ankle Sprains and Popping In The Ankle, go to:

How To Treat Ankle Pain With JOI Physical Therapy

When treating patients for ankle pain, JOI Rehab clinicians will commonly focus on range-of-motion with active and passive mobility exercises. Another form of therapy is strength training. This will help with stability of the ankle. Balance position sense is another key factor in treating ankle pain and preventing patients from losing their sense of balance due to ankle injuries. Different pairs of shoes may also help with healing ankle pains. Lastly and perhaps most importantly is keeping up with your health. Weight loss and a healthy BMI are always recommended in the treatment of ankle pain.

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI Rehab for physical therapy, go to JOI.NET

Where is Telemedicine frequently used?

All JOI Physicians, Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists now offer Telemedicine services for virtual visits from the convenience of your home.

If you feel that it is best to stay in your own home during this time, we can still provide orthopaedic Telehealth services for you. Through the download of the free Zoom app on your phone, tablet or laptop. Our physicians and Telehealth for Physical Therapy can evaluate you and provide the care you need.

 JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP Fracture care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care.



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