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Family Foot & Ankle

How You Can Tell if Your Ankle is Broken

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You’d be surprised how often we see a patient hobble into one of our offices, complain about a “sprain” or “twisted ankle” that’s been bothering them for a little while, and then respond with shock after we tell them that the X-ray revealed a full-fledged break. Because the symptoms of ankle sprains and ankle fractures share a lot of overlap, it’s not always obvious right away which one (if not both) has occurred. In some cases, a bad sprain can even hide a break underneath.

Because of the similarities—and because breaks often require much more care with stabilizing and immobilizing the ankle to prevent future damage—we strongly recommend that you visit our office for any painful ankle injury. It’s simply not worth making the mistake in judgment.

That said, there are a few signs to watch out for that suggest a break is likely. The most obvious would be a visible misalignment or deformation in the shape of the ankle, which would indicate a dislocation or displaced fracture—though even displaced breaks could be masked by swelling.

Beyond the obvious, broken ankles are more likely than sprains to reveal significant tenderness when pressing on the tips of the prominent bony bumps on the outsides of your ankle (the medial or lateral malleolus) or the navicular bone, and they’re also more likely to feature severe bruising or blistering. Furthermore, people suffering from a broken ankle may have significantly reduced range of motion and experience extreme pain bearing any weight on the foot or taking more than few steps.

While these symptoms do not necessarily confirm a fracture diagnosis—it could still be just a very severe sprain—they do indicate a serious injury that needs immediate treatment, whether a bone has ultimately been broken or not.

If you observe these or other painful symptoms in your ankle as a result of an injury, seek help from Family Foot and Ankle Center right away—within 24 hours of the injury, or as soon as possible after receiving emergency care. With 5 Greater Cincinnati locations, we’re already on your way. Set up an appointment online, or give us a call toll free at 888-689-3317.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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