When talking about injuries, those that occur in the ankles can be some of the most problematic. Not just because they are debilitating, but also because it can be hard to gauge the severity of them. Some people don’t like the idea of going to the doctor if they’re just going to be told it’s a sprain and they need to rest. While this is understandable, it’s ill-advised. You shouldn’t try to self-diagnose and wait something out if there is potential for something more serious to be going on. You should seek treatment for your ankle sprains. However, it’s also important to know the differences between an ankle sprain and a fracture. Here is what you need to know about ankle injuries.
A shorthand distinction when it comes to sprains is that they involve damage to the ligaments or joint. While that definition is helpful when speaking with your podiatrist, in the moment of injury it may not mean much because pain is pain. Swelling and pain can both be present in sprains and fractures alike. What is often the indicator of the difference between the two at the time of injury is severity. You may be able to walk (though with difficulty) if you have a sprain that isn’t severe. A broken bone would render you immobile and in much more pain.
When treating sprains, time is the best healer. As long as the sprain isn’t severe, rest is going to be the main treatment. Rest, ice, and elevation will be important. Rarely, severe sprains require surgery in order to repair the ligaments. You would most likely hear a loud pop if the sprain is particularly bad.
Fractures are breaks in the bone. While sometimes people will use the words “fracture” and “break” to mean two different things, medically speaking a fracture is a broken bone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a “hairline” fracture or a total separation of the bone. Unless the bone has broken through the skin, though, it’s hard to evaluate for yourself if you’ve broken your ankle.
Pain and swelling can come with sprains, so other things to look for include intense pain, an inability to stand, and the foot possibly looking askew because of a break. Breaks also don’t respond to elevation or ice and are more constant in their pain.
While sprains and fractures are often what cause concern when it comes to the ankle, other types of injuries can occur as well. Keep in mind that the foot and ankle are quite complex, consisting of dozens of bones, ligaments, tendons, and tissues that are all susceptible to injury. It’s not just breaking a bone or twisting your ankle that can happen. Other injuries can include deep bruising, lacerations, and nerve damage.
Nerve damage, in particular, can be tricky and it could be a secondary symptom of another health condition that you have. For example, people with diabetes often develop problems in their feet due to poor circulation. This can progress to nerve damage or make them more susceptible to injuries in the ankle or foot. If you’ve suffered any of these kinds of injuries or know you have a chronic medical condition that can contribute to your injuries, be sure to speak with your doctor right away.
Diagnosis and care
Because ankle injuries are so varied, your specific diagnosis will dictate how your treatment will progress. First, imaging testing like an X-ray or CT scan may be ordered in order to evaluate the ankle if a visual inspection isn’t enough to give a proper diagnosis. A physical evaluation and a review of your symptoms will also take place.
Treatment can look different for everyone. Anti-inflammatory medication may be recommended in certain cases. You may also be treated with splints, casts, or braces depending on the injury. Physical therapy may be recommended if the injury is chronic or severe enough. In the most serious scenarios following an injury, surgery may be required. Surgery may also be recommended for conditions like heel spurs. Ultimately, your podiatrist will set you up with the best course of action to provide you with relief and the ability to regain strength in your foot.
Damage done to the ankles or feet can be considerably debilitating. It doesn’t even need to be a severe injury in order to impact your quality of life. Because you’ve injured what is essentially supporting your ability to stand, you need to get better as quickly as possible in order to mitigate any complications or excessively long recovery times. If you’ve injured your ankle or foot, don’t delay. Get an accurate diagnosis so you can begin the recovery process. Book an appointment online with us today. Dr. Blue and the team at Colorado Foot and Ankle Sports Medicine are here to provide you with the expert care you need so you can get back on your feet.