WHAT IS AN ANKLE FRACTURE?
An ankle fracture is a break or crack in one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint. These bones are the tibia, fibula, and talus.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
Usually a broken ankle happens when the ankle is twisted.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
When the ankle is broken, you may hear a snapping or popping sound. Symptoms may include:
· Pain, swelling, bruising, or tenderness
· Trouble moving the ankle or not being able to walk
· A grating feeling when you move the ankle (caused by broken bones moving against each other)
· Tightness or pain caused by muscle spasms
· A change in the shape of the ankle
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Your primary healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how the injury happened. Your primary healthcare provider will examine you. You will have X-rays of the ankle if they think it is broken.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
The treatment depends on the type of fracture. If the broken bone is crooked, your primary healthcare provider will straighten it. You will be given some medicine first so the straightening is not painful. Sometimes surgery is needed to put the bones back into the correct position. Your primary healthcare provider may put your ankle in a cast, splint, removable boot, or Aircast to keep it from moving while it heals.
HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?
Follow the full course of treatment your primary healthcare provider prescribes. Also: To keep swelling down and help relieve pain put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time for the first day or two after the injury.
· Keep the injured ankle up on pillows when you sit or lie down.
· Take pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed by your primary healthcare provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your primary healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
· If you have a cast, make sure the cast does not get wet. Cover the cast with plastic when you bathe.
· Use crutches or a cane as directed by your primary healthcare provider. He or she will tell you how much weight you can put on your leg, if any. When your leg has been in a splint or cast, your joints may get stiff and your muscles get weaker. After the splint or cast is removed, your primary healthcare provider or physical therapist may recommend exercises to help you get strong and more flexible. Follow your primary healthcare provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover. Keep all appointments for primary healthcare provider visits or tests.
See your primary healthcare provider right away if:
· You have more pain, redness, warmth, or swelling.
· You have a fever.
· You have a loss of feeling in the injured area.
· The injured ankle or foot looks pale or blue or feels cold.
HOW LONG WILL THE EFFECTS LAST?
When the splint or cast is removed, it usually takes a few weeks of doing physical therapy exercises for your ankle to fully recover. If you have surgery and a cast for longer than 6 weeks, your rehabilitation will last longer.
WHEN CAN I RETURN TO MY NORMAL ACTIVITIES?
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your ankle recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. The goal of rehabilitation is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
You may safely return to your normal activities when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
· You have full range of motion in the injured leg compared to the uninjured leg.
· You have full strength of the injured leg compared to the uninjured leg.
· You can walk straight ahead without pain or limping.
HOW CAN AN ANKLE FRACTURE BE PREVENTED?
Most broken ankles are caused by accidents that are not easy to prevent. However, shoes that fit well and give good support can help prevent injury.