Ankle fractures are in the top ten list of worst bones to break, and if you have ever broken one, you know why! Your entire body weight relies upon your ankles being strong and flexible. You cannot walk if you are not able to put weight on your ankles. And when you think about it, your entire body weight is momentarily placed on one ankle for the time it takes you to lift your foot, take a step forward, and return it to the ground in a repeat fashion.
Running or jogging amplifies the level of pressure and stress your ankle is under and has the added problem of impact stress, increasing the likelihood of ankle fractures.
The most significant cause of accidental ankle fractures in women are stilettos or pencil-thin high heels. At the very least, a large number of grade three sprains that still require surgical correction are the direct result of wearing high heels.
Ankle fractures mean you cannot put weight on the ankle fracture without causing tremendous pain and worsening the break. That means a stint on crutches, some kind of cast or moon boot, and plenty of bed rest as your injury heals.
Five Types Of Ankle Fractures
Fibula Only Fractures:
The base of the fibula bone is also called the lateral malleolus, and it forms the bony lump on the outside of your ankle. The fibula is the largest of the lower leg bones running from under the patella to the joint where the foot meets the leg.
Bimalleolar Ankle Fractures:
A bimalleolar equivalent fracture means that the ligaments on the inside of the ankle are injured in addition to one of the malleoli being fractured. This means that the fibula is fractured along with an injury to the medial ligaments, making the ankle unstable and likely to have repeated twisted ankles or sprains until the ligaments have been surgically strengthened.
Trimalleolar fractures happen when you break the lower leg sections that form your ankle joint and help you move your foot and ankle. Trimalleolar fractures require surgery and extensive physical therapy. A trimalleolar fracture can have a long-term impact on a person’s quality of life.
Tibia Only Fractures:
Also called a Pilon fracture. A Pilon fracture is a relatively rare bone break occurring at the bottom of your tibia, commonly called your shinbone, near your ankle. In the predominant number of Pilon fractures, your fibula is broken simultaneously.
Maisonneuve fractures result from external rotation of a planted foot, most often with foot pronation. This extreme force places significant strain on the bones and ligaments that make up the ankle joint and often results in instability leading to a fracture.
Identifying The Signs And Symptoms Of An Ankle Fracture
- You hear a snap sound at the time of injury.
- You feel an intense wave of pain, and a faint feeling instantly hits you. You might pass out briefly before regaining consciousness in a state of shock.
- Your ankle is positioned at an angle not normal to your daily foot placement.
- A bone is sticking out through the skin of your ankle.
- You are in severe pain and cannot place any weight on the injured foot.
- Your toes look blue or white and are cold to touch or feel numb.
- Swelling and bruising.
What Is The Treatment For A Fractured Ankle
Any time a fracture is suspected, an X-ray is ordered to see if the bone is broken and the severity or extent of the break. If you have a minor break, a stress fracture, or a greenstick fracture, you may not need any treatment other than support strapping or taping and rest and elevation of the limb.
More serious breaks may require a special moon boot to help support and stabilise the ankle.
A plaster or fibreglass cast holds your ankle in place while it heals. A reduction procedure where the bones are gently moved and manipulated back into place by a doctor while you are under a mild sedative medication.
Surgical intervention to fix the broken bones using a variety of pins, plates, screws, and rods.
Depending on the type and severity of the break, you may require external and internal construction while the bone fragments calcify.
What Is The Recovery Time From A Fractured Ankle
A broken ankle typically takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal in a fit and healthy individual without complications. Still, it can take longer in people with low bone density, osteoporosis, or calcium deficiencies. Some medications can also affect individual healing speeds and need to be discussed with the treating physician.
Your treating physician will inform you of what steps to take and what treatment plan they intend for you to use to assist your swiftest recovery. Things like:
- How long you will have to wear the moon boot or the plaster cast.
- How much weight to put on your ankle, and at what stages to transition away from using crutches or a walking frame to keep weight off the injured ankle and allow you to return to partial weight bearing and then full weight bearing without the use of any walking aids.
- Once it has healed, use your ankle as normal. The tendency will be to favour the ankle. Physio exercises and moving the ankle through a normal range of motion will prevent the muscles from becoming stiff and reducing the range of motion in the injured ankle unnecessarily.
- You may be referred to see a physiotherapist. They can help you with specific exercises to get your foot and ankle gently moving again and prevent the atrophy of unused muscles.
- When you can return to contact sports, gym routines, or other physical activities that put strain and weight back on your ankle.
Enjoy The Down Time Recovering From A Fractured Ankle
While being confined to a bed or forced to be sedentary is some people’s idea of torture, there is a time for everything in life, and when you have a broken bone of any type, taking the downtime to recover will pay off as you allow your body to focus all of your energy on healing.
- RICE: rest and raise your ankle whenever possible.
- Take any painkiller your doctor has prescribed to ease pain only when you need them and only for as long as you generally require pain relief. Some painkillers can be addictive and misused. You do not need to take all of the painkillers in a prescription. People will have different pain tolerance levels, but if you do all the right things, you should not be in pain requiring addictive-level painkillers after the first week.
- Gently move your toes and bend your knee while wearing the boot or cast to ease stiff muscles and keep the blood flowing freely to uninjured areas of the foot to which the bracing restricts movement.
- Follow up with one final appointment to have your cast removed, and your physician review your injury to
Consider taking the time you are confined or restricted to gaining First Aid certification or renew your First Aid certification with an advanced course.