Sprained Ankle vs Broken Ankle - How Do You Tell the Difference?
I recorded details of my husband's broken ankle and recovery (complete with photos) in a number of articles. Here I provide information we both wish we'd had at our fingertips when he was first injured. If your ankle is broken or sprained, many of the treatments and recovery processes are similar. Having these tips available in a single list should help save you time instead of searching extensively for answers about your ankle injury.
Is Your Ankle Broken or Sprained?
Is My Ankle Broken or Sprained?
Unfortunately there is no way of directly linking the way you injured your ankle to the likelihood of a specific outcome (broken ankle or sprained), so it is safest to assume you may have broken your ankle from the outset, and take appropriate precautions to reduce any further damage.
Sprained and broken ankles can be caused by:
- Severely twisting your ankle
- Harshly rotating your ankle
- Rolling your ankle (eg during sport)
- Tripping or falling
- Impact during an accident (eg vehicle accident, or tumbling down stairs).
How your ankle responds to any kind of trauma will be influenced by many factors including your age, your bone density ... and good (or bad) luck.
How quickly and how well your ankle heals, however, can be controlled to a large extent by your own choices and actions.
Broken Ankle vs Sprained Ankle
When you first injure your ankle, it can be difficult to tell the difference between whether it is broken or sprained.
Symptoms of both include:
- Immediate and severe ankle pain
- Swelling around the ankle
- Bruising of the foot and ankle
- Tenderness if you try to touch it
The biggest clue to a broken ankle vs sprained ankle is:
- Deformity of the ankle joint
- Piece of bone protruding from the skin
- However, even if these symptoms are not immediately obvious, you still may have a broken ankle.
It is not advisable to try and put weight on an injured ankle to establish whether it is broken or not. It can be just as painful to try and walk on a sprained ankle, and you don't want to increase the damage if your ankle is broken.
See a medical practitioner for tests and evaluation. That's the most effective way to establish the precise nature of your ankle injury.
Do You Know Your Ankle Anatomy?
What is the talus, tibia, fibula, and calcaneus? Where is the lateral maleolus? These different bones are just some of the ones you might have broken.
If you've damaged ligaments or tendons, you'll want to know where they are and what they do. Ligaments join bones and tendons join muscles, but where exactly is the Posterior Inferior Tibiofibular Ligament, if that's where your doctor says you have a problem?
The following video gives a very clear and simple explanation of the anatomy of an ankle. As soon as your doctor starts referring to specific parts of your ankle, take notes and refer back to the video below...
Which Part of Your Ankle Is Injured?
Hands-Free, Non-Weight-Bearing Crutches
One of the greatest inventions for anyone with a sprained or broken ankle would have to be the iWALK 2.0 Hands Free Crutch. Why didn't anybody tell me there was such a thing as hands-free crutches when my husband first broke his ankle?
It never occurred to me to go in search of an alternative to the traditional crutches I used as a child.
As my husband cluttered around with his crutches when he was not allowed to put any weight on his foot, complaining about the pressure on his underarms, repeatedly adjusting the height of each crutch to try and get more comfortable, and grumbling every time one fell out of reach as he tried to get himself from the car, I had no idea there was an easier option.
It was only after his recovery that I learned about the iWALK Hands Free Crutch. Here's the link I wish I had been given when he first broke his ankle...
Better Than Traditional Crutches
One of the greatest frustrations for my husband was trying to grip items while using traditional crutches. Some things were clamped between fingers, other things held with his teeth. But he could never carry a cup of coffee back to the couch. With this, you can!
Hands-Free Crutch With a Sprained Ankle
I can see the iWALK 2 0 Hands Free Crutch would make life really easy if you have a sprained ankle and can't bear weight on it. The horizontal support on which you rest your leg seems to provide ample room for a bandaged ankle to be unhindered.
My husband and I have discussed buying one of these just to have it on hand for friends or family who may injure an ankle in the future.
I don't know about you and your friends, but the people in our lives all play sports and/or walk in the bush or on uneven farmland—so ankle injuries are quite common.
My Husband's Ankle
Will This Crutch Work for Both Sprains and Breaks?
It would be great if the iWALK 2.0 Hands Free Crutch were equally effective for a sprained ankle vs a broken ankle, but I suspect there are a few restrictions.
For instance, my husband's broken ankle required plates and screws to be inserted during surgery, so I am not convinced he'd be able to put pressure on the lower part of his leg.
Yes, his support boot was padded ... but I doubt he could have comfortably put pressure on his fresh scar.
However if he'd simply broken a bone in his ankle and had a plaster cast with no injury extending up his leg, I imagine the hands-free crutch would have been ideal.
Even with a large removable boot as opposed to a plaster cast, I can see how we could have made it workable. A local chain store that sells various types of foam (Clark Rubber) has blocks of foam of different textures - some of which has good grip.
They'll cut it to size, and with a bit of sculpting it should be possible to fill the gap between the knee and the top of the boot without making the crutch unstable. As soon as the straps are tightened, the leg should be held firmly in place.
Specific Instructions About Fitting the Crutch
Can Be Swapped Between Right and Left Legs
The company makes a series of videos that are great and clearly explain what is required for assembling, fitting, and walking with the iWALK 2.0 Hands Free Crutch. The same crutch can be used for the right or left leg, making simple adjustments during assembly.
A Thorough Assessment of the iWALK Hands Free Crutch
Another option to standard crutches
This is a cheaper alternative that might suit your ankle injury. I have assessed what I consider to be the pros and cons of this addition to standard crutches, including the fact that it looks like there is more room for a heavy support boot to extend beyond the knee rest. You'll need to decide if you think it suits you.
Can You Really Walk Hands-Free With a Crutch?
More about ankle pain
Healing a broken or sprained ankle
If you have a broken or sprained ankle, good luck with your recovery. Ankle injuries are painful and take time to heal.
I hope you are better able to understand the nature of your injury, and some of the options available to you ... including the possibility of using a hands-free crutch.
- How to use Comfrey to Heal Broken Bones
Broken bones take time to heal but my husband's broken ankle has healed in record time. One of the natural therapies we use is Comfrey, fresh from our garden. Here's what I did - with photos.
- How to reduce swelling fast on a broken ankle
The natural remedy I applied to quickly reduce swelling around my husband's broken ankle allowed doctors to operate three days earlier than normal. He was home before most people reach surgery!!
- Broken Ankle - Foods for healing broken bones
Ever wondered which foods help heal broken bones? I have researched the best foods to help heal my husband's broken ankle. Here is the list, with photos and explanations. Includes juices.
Injured your ankle?
How easy was it for you to identify the nature of your ankle injury?
© 2014 LongTimeMother
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