Unsure whether your ankle is broken or sprained?

According to American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, doctors have noted an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles over the past 30 years. More than one million people visit emergency rooms each year with ankle injuries. A sprained or broken ankle is a painful experience and both can be caused by similar injuries. Here are some tips to help you distinguish a fracture from a sprain:

When it’s most likely a sprain:

An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments that join bones to each other. It can be mild, just stretching of these structures. With a mild sprain, you’ll most likely experience swelling, bruising, and tenderness. A sprained ankle will hurt, but you should be able to walk. A severe sprain involves a complete tear of the ligament. If you suspect that you have torn the ligament you should seek immediate medical attention.

When it’s most likely a fracture:

Here is a key tip—it is most likely a fracture if you can not walk. It is a major red flag if putting weight on your ankle is nearly impossible. Additional fracture symptoms include:

  • Pain just over the inside or outside ankle bones

  • Pain over the top or sides of the foot, just in front of the ankle joint.

  • Instability of the foot or ankle

  • Deformity

  • Bone piercing skin (You would definitely know it’s broken)

If the pain and swelling are not resolved after a day or two with rest, ice, compression with an elastic bandage and elevation, you should seek medical attention.

Differentiating a sprained ankle from a broken one is not always an easy task, but some time-tested medical guidelines can help your doctor determine whether an x-ray is needed. If you suspect that your ankle is broken, Advanced Imaging Centers provides x-rays in three locations. You can schedule your appointment online at a location convenient to you.