Ankle Sprain vs Break: How Do You Know the Difference?

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You never know when a wrong step while walking your dog or getting out of your car can result in an ankle sprain or broken ankle. Even stumbling on a rock or tripping can force a misstep where you overcorrect and hurt your ankle and such an injury can be very painful.

So, how do you tell the difference between an ankle sprain and a broken ankle? As a rule-of-thumb, if you can stand and put weight on your ankle right after the injury and several hours later, it’s most likely that you have a sprain. But if you can’t walk right after the injury or later in the day, you’ve may have broken your ankle. In either case, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

Some clear signs of a broken ankle include pain that increases with use and decreases with rest also difficulty bearing weight or walking, usually accompanied by swelling, bruising, tenderness and deformity.

An X-ray will determine the exact location and severity of a break. If your doctor diagnoses a break, you’ll be treated with either a cast or boot, or in more serious cases, you may need surgery. Usually, a broken ankle takes a minimum of six weeks to heal. You may also need physical therapy to help you regain range of motion and mobility after the cast or boot is removed.

 

Prevention Tips:

Winter weather can increase your chances of a severe ankle injury. It’s a good idea to slow down and be aware of your surroundings, especially noticing what’s on the ground. Fall prevention is key.

In winter and adverse weather, wear shoes and boots with slip-resistant soles for good traction.

If you’re climbing steps, be sure to use handrails whenever possible. Try taking short steps and spreading your feet wider than usual while bending your knees slightly for a better center of gravity.

Not all slips and falls will be prevented but if you have an accident or have any symptoms of a broken or sprained ankle, see your doctor immediately.

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