Broken Ankle Recovery
I Have Broken My Ankle Twice
I know how to cope with having a broken ankle and about the recovery process for it. I have broken my left ankle twice in my life. Once when I was a kid and again as an adult.
The first time was a hairline fracture. The second time was more serious. I required surgery to have a plate and screws put in to replace/support the broken bone.
I will share my journey through the recovery process and provide you with tips and tricks for getting around. I am hoping you will share yours as well.
I know while going through my second injury, I wished I could have heard about other people's experiences. For instance, when my surgeon said I could start to walk on it, he made it seem like it would be no problem, but for me, it hurt a lot. I wanted to know whether this was normal.
When you have a broken or sprained ankle, there are products that can make your life a whole lot easier or just more comfortable. You may also find some that you will use after you have healed to try to prevent reinjury. I list them here and explain why they are helpful and how to use them.
If anyone makes some good suggestions I will add those as well. They are all available through Amazon, who will deliver to your door. This is a good thing since I know very well how difficult it can be to get out and shop with a broken ankle.
There is lots of information here about recovering from a broken ankle, products and advice to help you cope. To help me to improve the site let me know who you are and why you came. If you didn't find what you were looking for, tell me about it at the bottom of the page.
I came to this site because...
When you have hurt your ankle, whether it be sprained or broken, it is important to properly support it. A brace can help you prevent any more damage to it. This is not just a short-term item.
After my ankle surgery, the surgeon told me it would take about a year for the full recovery. Even after that time period, you will want to use added support when participating in physical activity.
This is the ankle brace that I bought after I broke my ankle the first time. The tensor bandage wrap style that the hospital gave me was a hassle putting on and didn't allow for much motion in your ankle.
This is much easier to put on and take off then the wrap style. Plus it was perfect for when I was participating in sports. It let me move, but it still provided some stability for my ankle.
Best Ankle Support When You Have a Plate
When I broke my ankle the second time, after my cast was removed, I tried using the old neoprene ankle brace that I still had from when I was a kid.
The problem was that it sits low, just above my ankle, which meant it was tight around the plate that was in my leg. So I couldn't wear it very long before it started to hurt.
So I went looking for a brace that would stop above my plate so that it wouldn't hurt me. Since these sit higher and the elastic is at the top, they were able to give me support that I needed without being too tight around the plate.
When you get your cast off you will be able to shower. However, when you can't put weight on one foot it can be very hard and dangerous to get in and out of the shower. A bathtub transfer bench is perfect. One of the chair legs is inside the tub the other is outside on the floor.
You can sit down on the chair on the outside and then lift and swing your legs to inside the tub (see video below for demonstration). You can shower sitting the whole time or just use the chair if you get tired or sore from standing.
This was the transfer bench that I bought. This model can hold a 250 lbs weight capacity, but there is another model available that can hold up to 300 lbs if you need that.
I liked that this style had a chair back which gave me something to hang onto for stability. My grandmother liked that part of the design when I gave it to her to use after my ankle had healed.
How To Use A Bathtub Transfer Bench
Crutches are the most used item for people with an ankle injury. They are the least expensive equipment that will get you mobile.
Make sure to get padding put onto the underarm portion and for the hand grips or you will get sore. When I was a kid my dad duct taped a towel on my crutches.
After my grandmother died my parents ended up with her walker. They gave it to me to use when I broke my ankle. This made moving around my apartment and inside the building so much easier.
It helped me the most while I was waiting for my surgery and right after while I had a cast on. I could use the walker to get up and go to the kitchen. I would sit down on the seat and then push myself where I wanted to go with my good leg.
Then I could put on the brakes and use it to stabilize myself while I stood up to grab the things I needed to make myself dinner. Then I would use the seat to sit on while I prepared a meal for myself.
It gave me the ability to carry a laundry basket to the washer and dryer so I could do laundry. It was also really fun when I could sit on the seat and push myself with my good leg. This
The Fun and Quick Way to Use a Walker
The man in the video is using both legs but you can do the same thing with just your good leg. It makes it much faster getting around. It is a great alternative if your arms are sore from using crutches.
How I Broke My Ankle as an Adult
I had just arrived at work for a night shift so it was dark. I got out of my car and was walking around to the front of the car when I slipped on ice. I tried to fight it, but I ended up falling. I knew right away that this was not just a little twist or sprain, it hurt way too much. Yet I still had to make sure my french vanilla cappuccino that I had dropped was put in the upright position (heaven forbid I spill it all).
The good thing is when I fell people were arriving for work so they saw me fall. When I didn't get back up they came over to help me. Someone went inside and got the supervisor. When they assessed my condition they called for an ambulance. The people I worked with were great they stayed with me, got me a blanket, and they even were holding my leg up as when I put it down it hurt like hell. My father worked at the same factory at the time, so the supervisor let me know he would call my dad and let him know what happened.
My Hospital Story
The ambulance arrived at the hospital a little after 11 PM. It took a little while but they checked my vitals. Then they helped me over to a chair to sit in and wait. My father arrived to see if I was okay and keep me company while I waited. While sitting there I was using my arms to hold my leg up. Since when I put it down, even with no weight on it, it hurt too much. After sitting there for a couple of hours one of the nurses moved me over into a hospital bed,
This bed was not in a room. It was in the emergency hallway, right in front of emergency entrance doors. What is sadder is there were quite a few beds lined up along the hallway and that is where people had been staying all weekend. Thank goodness that nurse moved me as I didn't even get taken for X-rays until about 7 AM. Then I still had to go back and wait some more.
Having been at the hospital now for over 8 hours, I needed to go to the bathroom. When a nurse walked by I asked her where the washroom was. She offered me a bedpan. First off I do not want to do that at all, but I sure as hell don't want to in the emergency room hallway right in front of the main doors!
I told her I had broken my ankle before. So I told her if she put down the bars on the side of the bed, gave me some crutches, and tell me where the bathroom is, I would be fine. This may sound weird, but I am so glad I had broken my ankle before
I finally saw a doctor around 9:30 AM. We talked about my fall and that my leg was also sore higher up by my knee. He then sent me for more X-rays. After that, they finally gave me some Tylenol for the pain.
When they got the results it turned out I had broken my ankle in 3 places along the bone beside the ball joint. I was given two options. I could be in a cast for months and hope it heals. However, they were not sure it would work. Or I could go for surgery to support /replace the broken bone with a plate and screws. They told me with the surgery I would only be in a cast for 2 weeks and then I would be fine. So I decided to go with the surgery.
They were hoping to get to operate that day so they told me I couldn't drink or eat anything. Oh sure, of course, you had to wait until my dad just came back with something to eat and drink. Thanks a lot! So they had me change into a hospital gown and put me on an IV.
I got to lie there waiting some more. Later they came back and decided they wouldn't be able to do the surgery today. They saw I could get around on crutches well so they decided they could send me home. They just needed to straighten out my ankle first.
They gave me some morphine and gave it a little time to kick in. Then right there in the hallway, they tried pushing it back into place. Let me tell you morphine does not kill all pain. Now this was a teaching hospital, so I had 2 doctors working on straightening my ankle and putting a cast on.
I swear I ended up with the heaviest cast ever. The main doctor did one layer and then the second doctor repeated it. When they were done they said I could go home and come back for the surgery in 2 days.
I told them that would be a problem as I had arrived in an ambulance and my dad went home. They said no problem they could get me a cab. I said no, it is still a problem since after I changed into my hospital gown my father took my work stuff and my pants home with him!
They said with the cast on, I probably wouldn't be able to get my jeans back on anyway. So, they gave me a pair of hospital pants to put on. I finally left the hospital at 4 PM, after being there for 16 hours.
Video Explaining An Ankle Surgery
This is safe to watch for the squeamish, it is all shown in a cartoon style graphic.
So I went back 2 days later for the surgery. They had me change into a hospital gown. The surgeon came by and explained what he was going to do. Then they wheeled me, in the bed, over to the operating room.
They asked me if I could transfer myself from that bed onto the operating table. I said yes as long as someone helped me to hold up the cast, as it was heavy. They kind of looked at me, but one of the people volunteered. Then I got a different look and a "holy crap you weren't kidding!".
They then asked if I had ever been put under before. I told them I had, when I had my wisdom teeth removed. They told me "that doesn't count". They then asked me to count down backwards from 20.
When I woke up, I was in the recovery room. I was still really groggy. It took probably at least a half an hour to really be with it. They then offered me something to drink. I think I stayed there about an hour waiting for my head to clear.
Then I had to put my pants back on and go home. My sister had loaned me her husbands track pants that had zippers all the way down the side of the leg. This made getting dressed with a cast on so much easier. I highly recommend these for your time in a cast and most definitely for the day of your surgery.
Easy to Remove Track Pants
These are great to have while you are in a cast. They are like the ones my sister loaned me the day of the surgery. Only difference is the ones she gave me were with a zipper instead of snaps. I don't see the zipper style around anymore.
Follow Up After The Surgery
I went back to the hospital for my first follow up about a week after the surgery. At this point, they left the cast on but the surgeon told me I could start to put weight on it. Holy crap did that hurt. I have to admit I thought this guy was crazy with how much it hurt.
I had another appointment to go back to the hospital 2 weeks after the surgery. This appointment was to remove the cast, the staples, and take Xrays to see how it is healing. My sister was nice enough to take time off work to drive me there and offer moral support.
Well, I'm not sure that is what you would call it when the doctor takes off the cast and your sister says "wow, you look like a football". However, I would, as that is just my family's weird sense of humor. Not to mention, it was fairly accurate as the staples down the side of your leg do look like the stitches on a football.
The nurse then took the staples out of my leg. This does hurt, but it wasn't too bad. Then it was time to get Xrays. What was cool about this was my surgeon actually showed me the Xrays. I didn't know I had gotten that many screws put in! He told me it was healing well and I should start walking on it.
I went back for my next appointment 4 weeks after the surgery and my surgeon told me I could go back to work. I had to explain to him that I work in a factory, that means wearing work boots and standing all day. I was also still having pain while walking.
I asked him about physiotherapy. He said, "Your therapy is to walk on it." For the surgery, he was very good. I didn't have the wrong size plate put in or an infection like a guy I work with. Nor did he completely screw it up like did to my cousin, who had to go back and get it redone. However, for aftercare, I would not recommend him for anyone.
So I started out working 4 hours a day for a few weeks. At first, I was still using crutches so I couldn't go on the shop floor, so they had me doing data entry on the computer. When I went to 6 hours for a few weeks my knee started to get sore.
I went to see my own doctor about maybe going to physiotherapy. She gave me some exercises to try at home to see if it got better. That still didn't work so she set me up for physiotherapy. I hadn't gotten the range of motion back in my ankle so I wasn't walking properly. That was what was causing my knee pain.
The physio made a world of difference. For some people, it may heal all on its own. If you are having problems don't just believe your surgeon, pay attention to what your body is telling you. I wish he had set me up with physio much sooner the recovery process would have been much faster.
Show Your Sense of Humor
Neither of my ankle injuries were caused doing some dangerous endeavor or extreme sport. As a kid I jumped up in the air and landed wrong. As an adult I slipped on ice.
So I thought why not show my stupid sense of humor? That I can laugh at myself. So I bought a shirt that says "I do all my own stunts" to wear to work on my first day back.
Links to Professional Advice
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
This site talks about the variety of ankle injuries. It tells you what the surgical and nonsurgical treatment is for each one. It also gives some suggestions for what questions you should ask your doctor.
- Ankle Rehabiltation Exercises
This site tells you some exercises you can do to rehabilitate your broken ankle.