What is a broken ankle?
A broken ankle occurs when the ankle goes beyond a twist or sprain and the bone is actually fractured. A fracture can be a break in one bone (which could still be walked on) or several bones (which force the ankle out of place).
As one of the most common bone and joint injuries, the causes are multiple:
- Tripping or falling
- Landing awkwardly
- Walking or running on uneven surfaces
- Sudden impact
- Twisting the ankle
- Rolling the ankle
Sprains and fractures are very similar in their symptoms, which is why a fracture can only be diagnosed with an X-ray. Symptoms include:
- Sudden and severe pain
- Inability to walk
If a broken ankle is stable, surgery may not be required. An X-ray will show the severity of the fracture. Doctors usually treat the injury through immobilisation using a cast, giving a recovery time of six to eight weeks. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and cooling therapy are also essential for a timely recovery following a broken ankle.
After surgery, protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation (PRICE) can help reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. The PRICE approach is recommended by NHS Choices:
- Protection – protect the knee from further injury, using a support bandage if appropriate
- Rest – stop the activity that caused the injury, and rest the injured joint or muscle. Avoid activity for the first 48 to 72 hours after injury
- Ice – for the first 48 to 72 hours after knee injuries, apply a cooling therapy like Physicool
- Compression – compress or bandage the injured knee to limit any swelling and movement that could damage it further
- Elevation – keep the injured area raised and supported on a pillow to help reduce swelling
A physicool bandage or coolant can help reduce the pain experienced post-surgery. Drawing heat away from the point of pain, a cooling feeling can be felt for several hours thanks to the properties within the bandage. Use for 30 minutes – one hour, several times a day to get the biggest benefit.