Broken Ankle Vs Sprained Ankle: Differences Based on Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery

In the United States, every year, more than 1 million people visit the emergency room for ankle injuries. Of these ankle injuries, the majority are, broken ankle and sprained ankle, and in many cases, it becomes difficult to tell the differences between the two conditions of ankle injuries.

Broken Ankle  Vs Sprained Ankle

Broken Ankle Vs Sprained Ankle: What is the Difference?

Generally a broken ankle is referred to as an ankle bone fracture, where there is a break in one or more of the ankle bones, including the tibia, fibula, talus and calcaneus. However, a sprained ankle is caused when there is damage inflicted to the ankle ligaments as a result of stretching of the ankle beyond their normal stretch. Both of these ankle injuries can be very painful. Let us read below and know more about the differences between the two conditions.

Broken Ankle Vs Sprained Ankle: Causal Differences

Broken ankles and ankle sprains occur when the ankle is stressed at an angle. This generally occurs when you step and land on the inside or outside of the foot. The ankle is a complex joint, including the two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and the fibula, and the bones of the back and the middle of the foot, i.e. the talus and the calcaneus.

The Navicular and the Cuboid bone are present in the middle of the foot, and just in front of these two bones, sits the three cuneiform bones. There are numerous tendons and ligaments of the ankle can become sprained with abnormal twisting or rolling of the ankle.

Broken ankle occurs, when you land on the outside of the foot, stretching the ligaments of the outside of the ankle and sometimes, resulting the fibula, to break. This break is usually always at the bottom end of the fibula.

Broken Ankle Vs Sprained Ankle: Basic Differences

The symptoms of a broken ankle are mostly similar to that of a sprained ankle. However; we need to know which ankle injury you have, so that you can heal the right way.

Let us look at the differences.

Broken ankle is a common type of sports injury. This condition requires immediate medical attention. This occurs when at least one of the three ankle bones break. One may not realize how bad the injury is, if just one bone of the ankle is injured. However, if multiple bones of the ankle break at once, you will lose stability in your ankle and you may also not be able to walk. It must also be noted that a broken ankle can also result in a ligament damage.

Sprained ankle is something that happens when you damage the ligaments in your ankle. Ligaments are tough bands of tissues which function by holding the bones of the ankle in place and facilitate joint stability. In the event of a sprained ankle, a ligament is torn or stretched beyond its limit.

Sprained ankles can be mild to severe in nature and are mostly seen in athletes. There is a sudden pain, swelling, bruising and an inability to walk, if you have a sprained ankle.

Broken Ankle Vs Sprained Ankle: Differences Based on Signs and Symptoms

In case of a broken ankle, you might hear a crack. While swelling is something that is common in both the injuries, if the ankle looks completely off of position then the most likely cause of it is a broken ankle bone. Apart from this, if you have numbness or tingling in the ankle, your ankle is likely to be broken. Moreover, if you ankle really hurts or is tender to touch directly over the ankle bone, you probably have a broken bone.

As for sprained ankle, the injury occurs silently, or in some severe cases, there may be a popping sound. There can be swelling as well in a sprained ankle. One might feel pain, in case of a sprained ankle. Apart from this, if the pain is in the soft part of your ankle, it is more likely a sprained ankle.

If you have pain in your ankle or if your ankle is tender to touch, see your doctor, who can examine the ankle, have an ankle X-ray and the let you know about the ankle injury and provide you with the right treatment.

Broken Ankle Vs Sprained Ankle: Differences Based On Treatment.

If your ankle is broken, you must get medical treatment on an immediate basis. You need to have the ankle immobilized and it could involve crutches or a cast. Your doctor may try to align the broken ankle bones to help you recover. If the ankle bones are unable to stay in place after your doctor has attempted stabilization of the broken bones of the ankle, you might require surgery. Apart from this, you need to elevate your ankle, apply ice, or take pain medications. A consultation with your physician is a must to determine the most effective treatment for your broken bone.

Sprained ankles usually heal on their own with appropriate rest. You may take anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen or naproxen. Your doctor may also advise you to try the RICE protocol or, Rest, Ice, Compression( With an elastic bandage) and Elevation (Ankle above the heart). You may require physical therapy for moderate sprain in your ankle. You should begin range of motion exercises, once the swelling and pain subside. For severe ankle sprain, you may require surgery.

Broken Ankle Vs Sprained Ankle: Differences Based on Recovery Time.

Recovery time differs for broken ankle and sprained ankle. Generally broken ankle or fractures in the ankle bones take longer time to recover. It could be 6 weeks to several months, before the affected person is back to the regular routine. Broken ankles need rehab with some basic exercise programs of stretching, range of motion, balance exercise at home for faster recovery time.

However, in case of a sprained ankle, the recovery time may be pretty less. An ankle sprain may clear up in a few days, though severe sprains of the ankle can take weeks to heal.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 28, 2018

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