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Ankle Sprain Versus Fracture: How to Tell the Difference

Ankle Sprain Versus Fracture: How to Tell the Difference

You may think athletes are most vulnerable to ankle injuries, but anyone can experience an ankle sprain, strain, or fracture at this delicate joint. Just stepping off of a curb wrongly or walking on an uneven surface can cause an ankle sprain or fracture. 

If you’re among the estimated 1 million people who’ll injure their ankle this year, you may wonder how serious your injury is. Sprains and fractures are the most common types of ankle injuries, and both benefit from immediate medical care to ensure proper healing and long-term ankle health. All too often, though, people ignore an ankle injury — thinking “it’s just a mild sprain” — and set themselves up for long-term ankle instability.

At Apple Podiatry, Jarna Rathod-Bhatt, DPM and Rahul Bhatt, DPM are available to help you with all your foot and ankle injuries, including ankle fractures and sprains. If you’ve suffered an injury to your ankle, visit one of their offices in Arlington, Irving, or Fort Worth, Texas to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Here are some of the symptoms our podiatrists look for when determining if the pain in your ankle is related to a broken bone or an injury to the ligaments.

The difference between a sprain and a fracture

You know your ankle hurts, but you can’t determine just from the pain whether you’ve injured the bones or soft tissue at the joint. A fracture and sprain both result from similar trauma incurred during a fall or awkward twist. 

A sprain involves a tear or other damage to ligaments, connective tissue that attaches bone to bone. A fracture is a break in one of the three main bones at your ankle joint. These include the talus, fibula, and tibia. 

Symptoms of a sprain versus a fracture

The symptoms of a sprain and fracture are similar and include swelling, bruising, and notable pain. You may have trouble putting weight on your injured foot. 

It’s difficult to determine if you have a sprain or a fracture without expert examination and imaging tests, like an X-ray or MRI. We here at Apple Podiatry can offer an accurate diagnosis to determine whether you have a sprain or fracture. 

When to suspect a sprain

While it’s best to head to our offices if you’ve injured your ankle, your injury is likely a sprain if you do maintain some ability to bear weight on it. The pain will be mild-to-moderate, and you should have some ankle instability. Swelling and bruising develops over the course of several hours or days.

When to suspect a fracture

If you’ve fractured your ankle, you’ll find it impossible to bear weight on it (though this is possible with some severe sprains). Pain will be moderate-to-severe, and you may experience some numbness in your foot and ankle. Your ankle may look deformed and develop swelling or bruising almost right away. 

Don’t just leave your ankle to heal on its own

Even if you think you have just a mild sprain, it’s important to seek medical care. Ankle fractures and sprains that aren’t treated correctly and allowed to heal on their own can lead to complications like long-term problems with your gait, recurrent ankle sprains, and serious ankle instability. 

Getting proper care for your ankle injury means you can get back to doing the activities you love safely and with confidence.

If you’ve suffered an ankle injury, call any of the offices of Apple Podiatry, or book your appointment online. We can guide your healing and long-term foot and ankle health.

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