Know the Difference: Ankle Sprain Vs. Ankle Fracture

Santa Rosa Orthopaedics Foot and Ankle Program, led by Dr. Mark E. Schakel-- the only California board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon north of San Francisco-- provides a comprehensive array of treatment alternatives covering nonsurgical as well as surgical methods to overcome a patient’s pain and lost function due to an ankle injury.

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Ankle sprains are quite common injuries affecting as many as 25,000 people every day.

Rehabilitation following an ankle injury is imperative for ensuring that it doesn’t reoccur due to weakness and to help make sure that long term problems such as arthritis doesn’t set into the joint as a result of the injury.

Santa Rosa, CA (PRWEB) May 07, 2014

Ankle fractures typically involve a partial or complete break in a bone and they can occur from a fall, a vehicle accident or simply by abruptly twisting the ankle. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, bruising and difficulty rotating or moving the foot or ankle. The best way to tell if an ankle is truly broken is with an x-ray, which will also helps an orthopedist determine the best treatment.

Ankle sprains, on the other hand are quite common injuries affecting as many as 25,000 people every day. Ankle sprains are typically brought on by a sudden movement of the foot – or roll of the ankle - that puts a person off-balance. And usually with this kind of a sprain, any resulting pain will quickly fade away. However, sprains can also be more severe causing swelling and extreme tenderness that can last for several days – these sorts of sprains can follow a sudden ankle movement that includes a "popping" sound when the injury happened.

A severe sprain can be difficult to differentiate from a fracture without the use of an x-ray. Injuries that make it impossible to stand or bear weight on the ankle combined with significant swelling or deformity should ultimately be treated by a doctor.

Fractures

A fracture injury can result in small cracks in one or more bones in the ankle or, in extreme cases they can involve shattered bones. Although a person may be able to continue walking on a fractured ankle, fractures almost always cause pain, swelling and bruising around the ankle and foot. It is important to be evaluated by an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist such as SRO’s Dr. Mark Schakel to determine what kind of treatment is best for the patient.

When the ankle fracture results in instability or causes the bones to alter position, surgery is most likely needed to repair the ankle. Severe injuries where the bones of the ankle protrude through the skin are called ‘open ankle fractures’ and obviously require immediate surgery.

Sprains

A sprained ankle happens when one or more ligaments on the outer side of the ankle are suddenly stretched or torn. In this case the ankle is rolled either inward (inversion sprain) or outward (eversion sprain) causing a sprain. Severe sprains that are not treated properly can result in long-term problems. Two typical types of sprains are described as:

  •     Inversion sprains that cause pain along the outer side of the ankle are the most common type and usually respond to home treatment.
  •     Pain along the inner side of the ankle may signify a more serious injury to the tendons or to the ligaments that support the arch. These types of injuries should always be evaluated by a doctor.
Mild ankle sprains do not require surgery. But most sprains are best treated with a functional rehabilitation program and are classified as Grade I, II or III.

Treatment for a Grade I sprain may include:

  •     Resting the ankle, limiting pressure on the ankle
  •     An ankle brace may help control swelling and add stability while the ligaments heal
  •     An ice compress can be used to keep down the swelling
  •     Elevating the foot above the waist or heart will also help reduce swelling

Grade II sprains are at risk for permanent ankle instability if not properly treated. Treatment considerations include the above and:

  •     Immobilization of or splinting the injured ankle
Grade III sprains are at greatest risk for permanent ankle instability and in some cases surgery may be needed to repair the damage. Additional treatment options that may be considered in this case include:
  •     A short leg cast or a walking boot may be used for up to three weeks
  •     Repeated sprains may also require surgical repair to tighten their ligaments

Whether the ankle injury is a fracture or a sprain, following treatment and once the ankle can bear weight again exercise routines will be prescribed to strengthen the muscles and ligaments and to increase flexibility, balance and coordination. Rehabilitation following an ankle injury is imperative for ensuring that it doesn’t reoccur due to weakness and to help make sure that long term problems such as arthritis doesn’t set into the joint as a result of the injury.

Santa Rosa Orthopaedics Foot & Ankle Program

Dr. Schakel is part of a collaborative team of nine multi-specialist orthopedic surgeons, and experienced physical and occupational therapists. In its efforts to bring the best outcomes to patients, SRO has set the model for exceptional orthopedic care for over 60 years. SRO offers patients in-house diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation, sports injury prevention, as well as advanced surgical treatments in joint replacement, sports medicine, trauma care, hand, foot, ankle, and general orthopedic surgery. Visit our website to learn more.