How Are Ankle Sprains and Fractures Different?

How Are Ankle Sprains and Fractures Different?

Your ankle joint is a hinged synovial joint that allows you to move your feet upward, downward, and side to side. You might not think much about your ankles until they’re hurt, but ankle injuries are all too common.

Because of the many tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles in your feet 一that’s a whopping 26 bones and 100 muscles and tendons per foot 一 it’s not always easy to tell what’s wrong. In fact, it can be very difficult to determine what’s causing your pain without an X-ray and a physical exam.

Below, our board-certified podiatrists at Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists, answer a common question: How are ankle sprains and fractures different?

Ankle sprains versus ankle fractures

The main difference between ankle sprains and fractures is the part of your ankle that is injured. A fracture only affects bones, while sprains affect ligaments. Bones and ligaments both help your ankle function. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that help connect bones in your joint. 

A fracture is a broken bone, and there are many types of fractures, including:

Just like there are many different types of fractures, there are a few different ways to describe sprains. Sprains are categorized by grade depending on how severe the ligament tear is. A Grade 1 sprain is a mild overstretching of the ligament, while a Grade 3 sprain is a complete tear.

Do you have a sprain or a fracture?

It can be hard to tell if you’ve sprained or fractured your ankle just by looking at it. Both fractures and sprains result from ankle trauma, such as tripping or landing on your foot at an odd angle, that causes pain, swelling, and an inability to bear weight on your foot. 

To compound matters, it’s possible to break and sprain your ankle at the same time.

You might suspect you have a sprain if:

You might suspect you have a fracture if: 

The only true way to determine if your ankle is broken or sprained is to have it evaluated by a medical professional. 

The first step in formulating the right treatment plan is to determine whether you’ve sprained or broken (or sprained and broken) your ankle. We do this through a comprehensive physical evaluation and a review of digital imaging, such as X-rays and/or CT scans. 

Why treatment for ankle trauma matters

Any ankle injury should receive medical attention, but do you need emergency medical attention or can it wait? If your ankle is deformed or appears dislocated, you’re experiencing extreme pain, or if your bone has broken through skin, seek emergency medical attention. 

If you’ve tried to rest or employ the RICE protocol but haven’t seen any improvement, schedule an appointment with us at Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists. While some sprains heal with conservative methods, such as RICE and cold compresses, you should still visit one of our offices for an accurate diagnosis and podiatric care.

Both ankle fractures and sprains can lead to complications if they aren’t treated correctly at the onset. Ankle injuries that don’t receive the right care can increase your risk of recurrent injuries, post-traumatic arthritis, ankle instability, and chronic pain.

Trust your ankle trauma treatment plan to experts who are ABFAS-certified in foot, reconstruction foot and ankle surgery. It’s our mission to help you back on your feet and back to your daily routine as quickly as possible, whether that’s through bracing, activity modifications, casting or other immobilization, or surgery.

To learn more about your treatment options for ankle injuries or to schedule an appointment, call the office of your choice or book an appointment online. We have locations in Tamarac, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Coral Springs, and Boca Raton, Florida.

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