What is an Ankle Fracture?
An ankle fracture occurs when one or more bones in your ankle break.
The ankle joint is made up of three bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus.<//p>
A broken ankle sounds serious, but they can vary in type and severity depending on the amount of force that caused it, ranging from tiny cracks in the bone(s) to breaks where bone pierces the skin.
What Causes an Ankle Fracture?
Common causes and risk factors of ankle fractures include:
- Direct trauma to the ankle, such as a trip or fall on a hard surface
- Landing from the force of a jump
- A car accident
- High impact sports such as soccer, football, and basketball, but also tennis and gymnastics
- Incorrect technique or training in sports, including lack of strength training
- Putting your foot down awkwardly can cause it to roll or twist and break, especially if you are wearing improper or ill-fitting shoes
- Osteoporosis can put you at a greater risk for an ankle fracture
What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ankle Fracture?
Signs and symptoms of an ankle fracture include:
- Severe pain
- Inability to bear weight
- Immediate swelling (typically)
- Bone may stick out of the skin and cause bleeding
- Foot appears to be dislocated or crooked
X-ray images are usually done to confirm an ankle fracture has occurred and not an ankle sprain (in which tendons are torn but bones are not broken), as well as to confirm the exact location, type and severity of your ankle fracture.
A CT scan or MRI may also be performed.
Concerned about symptoms of an ankle fracture? Find a physiotherapist near you and book an assessment today.
How is an Ankle Fracture Treated?
Treatment depends on which ankle bone has been broken and how severely.
Regardless of the treatment, physiotherapy is often necessary to aid in recovery after your ankle joint has healed.
Treatment for an ankle fracture includes:
- A cast, walking boot or splint – for mild ankle fractures, these methods keep the bone in place during the healing process; crutches are often used to help you get around without bearing weight on your ankle.
- Reduction – a non-surgical process where the two ends of the fracture are physically brought back into alignment if the bone(s) has moved out of place
- Surgery – surgery is needed for a severe ankle fracture that can’t heal with a cast, splint or boot alone. Plates, rods, pins or screws may be implanted to fuse the bones together. A cast, boot, or splint will be needed after surgery.
Most likely, you will be in some form of cast for five to eight weeks following an ankle fracture.
Once the cast is removed, most doctors recommend physiotherapy in order to properly restore your range of motion, gait pattern, and overall muscle tone and strength.
Not only has your ankle lost strength during the time it was in a cast, but the surrounding muscles and ligaments have also become stiff and weakened.
Ankle fractures take time to heal, no matter whether you have a simple break or many.
Under the guidance of a physiotherapist, you will regain stability without overdoing it, ensuring you don’t rush the recovery process and end up with another injury.
Physiotherapy for Ankle Fracture Rehabilitation
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing joint mobility and function, and preventing recurrence.
Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:
- Functional retraining and activity modifications which may include a walking aid at first
- Stretching and strengthening exercises, including your knee and hip
- Range of motion and flexibility exercises
- Balance and control exercises
- Personalized exercise plan that you can do at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
- Preventative strategies to help you manage lifestyle, work, and other risk factors
- Patient education, including return to work or sport recommendations
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Can an Ankle Fracture Go Away on Its Own?
Even if you have sustained a minor ankle break, you will need a walking boot, cast, or splint, as well as physiotherapy when the cast comes off.
Overall, rehab for a post-ankle fracture can take between 12 to 18 weeks.
To facilitate recovery, make sure to eat healthy, as a fractured ankle needs nutrients to heal.
It’s also very important to quit smoking, as smoking slows bone healing and disrupts your body’s ability to create new bone tissue.
Can You Prevent an Ankle Fracture?
The best way to prevent an ankle fracture is to incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises as part of an overall fitness plan.
Even if you play sports, speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.
Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of suffering an ankle fracture include:
- Warming up and stretching before exercise
- Cooling down and stretching after exercise
- Practicing proper technique in sport including stretching and strengthening exercises
- Starting a new exercise or fitness program slowly, and gradually increasing your training
- Cross-training can help prevent stress fractures; for example, alternating running with cycling and swimming
- Wearing orthotics and properly supportive shoes for your activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating calcium-rich foods to build bone strength
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for an Ankle Fracture Today
Concerned about symptoms of an ankle fracture? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.