How To Tell If You Have a Strained, Sprained Or Broken Ankle

April 26, 2024

Ankle injuries are common and can range from mild strains to severe sprains or even fractures. Whether you have twisted your ankle during physical activity or experienced a fall, knowing how to differentiate between a strain, sprain, or break is essential for seeking appropriate treatment and promoting optimal healing. To accurately determine the severity of your injury, you need some familiarity with the injuries. In this blog, we’ll explore the signs and symptoms of each type of ankle injury to help determine the best course of action.

For same-day injury treatment, visit the walk-in clinic at AFC Urgent Care West Orange. Our facility is fully equipped to diagnose and treat your injury on-site with our digital x-ray system. Simply stop by any day of the week during operating hours to start recovering in the right hands.

How To Identify Your Ankle Injury

Sprains commonly happen to the ankle either due to walking or exercising on uneven surfaces. They can also occur when landing awkwardly after a jump which results in an overstretching or tear of the ligaments in a joint. Strains, on the other hand, tend to happen due to stressing the muscles in a particular area of the body. They can both range from mild cases to severe ones.

1. Signs of an Ankle Sprain

One of the major differences between a sprained and strained ankle is the presence of bruising. You can relieve the pain and swelling by applying the RICE method. RICE is simply short for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Take care of the sprain by resting, applying an ice compress and keeping it off the ground. Here are some symptoms that indicate you may have an ankle sprain:

  • Pain: This is the most recognizable symptom and it is often described as a stabbing pain in the ankle whenever pressure is applied when standing or walking.
  • Bruising: This is a major differentiation between a sprain and strain, and it occurs when a blood vessel or ligament is torn, causing blood to pool in the area. It doesn't usually appear immediately but when it does, it's a good indication that it's a sprain.
  • Swelling: Swelling also happens both in the case of sprain or strain and is usually localized in the region where the sprain occurred. It is usually advised that when you notice swelling, you apply the RICE method to alleviate it.

2. Signs of an Ankle Strain

Despite being the least severe of the three, strains still ought to be taken seriously and these are some symptoms that indicate you might have with an ankle strain:

  • Pain: Strains also result in persistent pain just like in sprains and this pain can increase or decrease depending on the severity of the injury. The pain from a strained ankle is usually mild but will aggravate if it is continuously used.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation or discoloration around the site of the injury is another symptom of a strain and if noticed, should be treated with a cold compress.
  • Muscle Cramps and Limited Range of Motion: If you have a strained ankle, one of the things you might notice is cramps along your calves and feet accompanied by pain especially when performing physical activities like running or walking. Strains can also result in a limited range of motion by making the ankle stiff due to the pain and in severe cases might even result in a permanent limp.

3. Signs of a Broken Ankle

A broken ankle is the most severe of these injuries and it typically requires an X-ray for confirmation. It shares some common symptoms with strains and sprains but is just more severe. Some of these symptoms include intense pain, swelling, paleness of skin, numbness and inability to move. Depending on how severe the injury is, a broken ankle can be dealt with in a few weeks. In mild cases, a simple cast might be all you need but in severe cases, surgery might be needed.

  • Severe Pain: Intense pain in the ankle area, especially with weight-bearing or movement of the joint
  • Deformity: Visible deformity or misalignment of the ankle joint, which may be accompanied by swelling or bruising
  • Inability to Bear Weight: Difficulty or inability to bear weight on the affected leg due to pain and instability
  • Numbness or Tingling: Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the foot or toes, which may indicate nerve involvement.

Get Same-Day Ankle Injury Treatment at AFC Urgent Care West Orange

Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of an ankle injury is essential for seeking timely medical attention and appropriate treatment. Whether you have experienced a mild twist or a more severe injury, listening to your body and seeking professional care can help facilitate a speedy recovery and prevent long-term complications. If you are unsure about the severity of your ankle injury, don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance. At AFC Urgent Care West Orange, we’re available to treat your injury on a walk-in basis any day of the week. We accept most health insurance plans and provide low-cost options for self-paying patients. If you have any additional questions about ankle injury treatment, please contact us directly at (973) 669-5900.

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