Ankle Sprain vs Ankle Fracture_ How to tell the difference

Ankle Sprain vs Ankle Fracture: How to tell the difference?

The ankle region is susceptible to two different forms of injuries: ankle sprains and ankle fractures. When the ligaments holding the ankle bones together stretch or tear, an ankle sprain occurs. When one or more of the ankle bones shatter, this is known as an ankle fracture.

Swelling, bruising, and severe pain are all indications of both a sprain and a fracture, which can impede mobility, thus making it difficult to bear weight on the affected foot. Putting weight on your wounded foot could be difficult. Without a professional examination and imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI, it can be challenging to identify whether you have a fracture or sprain. 

When to suspect an Ankle Sprain?

When to suspect an Ankle Sprain?

Ankle sprain frequently occurs due to the ankle being twisted or turned in an unusual way, leading to harm to the ligaments that maintain the ankle bones in position. It is identifiable by pain, inflammation, and restricted mobility of the affected ankle joint. Mild to severe sprains are graded based on their intensity, with minor sprains requiring no treatment and severe sprains potentially requiring surgery. 

If you can still put some weight on it, your injury is probably a sprain. You should experience mild-to-moderate discomfort and some ankle instability. The bruising and swelling take several hours or days to appear.

Treatment typically encompasses taking a break, applying ice, compressing the affected area, and elevating the ankle, along with physical therapy sessions aimed at boosting recuperation and averting future injuries.

Signs of Ankle Sprain

  • Pain in the ankle area
  • Swelling and bruising around the ankle
  • Difficulty in walking or maintaining balance
  • Stiffness in the ankle joint
  • Weakness when turning the foot or ankle
  • Tenderness when touching the ankle

When to suspect an Ankle Fracture?

When to suspect an Ankle Fracture?

An ankle fracture is a break or cracks in one or more of the ankle joint’s bones. The tibia, fibula, and talus are the three bones that make up the ankle joint. When one or more of these bones are broken, usually as a result of a fall, twist, or direct contact, an ankle fracture results. Pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty or inability to bear weight on the injured foot are all signs of an ankle fracture. Physical therapy, surgery, and immobilization with a cast or brace are all possible forms of treatment.

Although it is possible with some very severe sprains, it will be impossible to bear weight on an ankle that has been fractured. You’ll feel moderate to severe pain, and your foot and ankle may feel numb. 

Signs of Ankle Fracture

  • Immediate and severe pain in the ankle area
  • Swelling and bruising around the ankle
  • Difficulty in walking or making any movement
  • Deformity or abnormal shape of the ankle
  • An ankle that feels tender to the touch
  • Loss of range of motion in the ankle joint
  • A crack or snap noise when the injury happened

Ankle Sprain vs Ankle Fracture: How to tell the difference?

To help figure out what the injury might be, you can start by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Is the ankle deformed? Both injuries can produce swelling, but if your ankle seems visibly “off,” a broken bone is most likely to blame.
  • The place of the pain? You most likely have a fracture if your ankle aches or is sensitive to touch immediately above your ankle bone. It’s most probably a sprain if the pain is in the soft area of your ankle.
  • Your ankle — does it feel numb? Pain is experienced with a sprain. However, if you experience tingling or numbness, your ankle is probably broken.
  • When it happened, was there a sound? A sprain can happen quietly or, in more severe situations, it could pop. You could hear a crack when there is a fracture.

Signs to tell the difference between Ankle Sprain vs Ankle Fracture

Signs to tell the difference between Ankle Sprain vs Ankle Fracture

Here are the signs and symptoms that can help to differentiate between an ankle sprain and an ankle fracture. The following are some key differences to help you know the exact difference between the two:

  • Swelling: Ankle fractures and sprains can result in swelling at the ankle joint. But compared to a sprain, swelling from a fracture could be more severe and happen faster.
  • Kind of Pain: Ankle sprains commonly result in localized discomfort in the soft tissues around the ankle joint. On the other hand, ankle fractures frequently result in more severe and all-encompassing pain that can be felt in the ankle, foot, or leg.
  • Movement: Because the ankle joint is swollen and painful, an ankle sprain often results in a reduction in the ankle joint’s range of motion. In addition to significantly reducing the range of motion, an ankle fracture may also make the joint seem tight or locked.
  • Bruising: Both of these can result in bruising. However, severe bruising is more likely to happen in the case of a fracture and may manifest itself faster than in the case of a sprain.
  • Loss of balance or unsteadiness: Ankle sprains can give the ankle the appearance of being unstable, although most people are still able to walk and bear weight without experiencing excruciating pain. On the other side, an ankle fracture may make the ankle feel more unstable and make it impossible to walk or bear weight at all.

If you feel pain or tenderness when touching your ankle bone directly, it’s likely that you have a fracture. But if the pain is in the softer area of your ankle, it might be a sprain. It’s important to seek medical help if you suspect either condition, as diagnostic tests such as X-rays may be needed to confirm the diagnosis and decide the best way to treat it.

Medical Care for Ankle Sprain

The majority of sprains will heal on their own. You might take painkillers like ibuprofen or naproxen. To reduce inflammation, your doctor suggests you to take proper rest, ice, compression with a bandage, and elevation of the ankle above the heart are all recommended.

For a moderate sprain, physical therapy may be required. Once the discomfort and swelling have subsided, you should begin range-of-motion exercises. Surgery could be the only option when one have tried all other treatments methods.

Medical Care for Ankle Fracture

If you suspect a fractured ankle, you should seek immediate medical attention. The ankle has to be immobilized. This can need using crutches or a cast. To aid with your recovery, your doctor may attempt to realign the shattered bones. After your doctor has attempted to stabilize the fracture, surgery might be necessary if the bones are unable to remain in place. Applying ice, elevating your ankle, and taking painkillers are some options. Consult your physician immediately in case of a fracture.