Will An Ankle Fracture Heal Itself? 

ankle fracture recovery

Will An Ankle Fracture Heal Itself? 

Will An Ankle Fracture Heal Itself? 

You have probably found this page by searching ‘will an ankle fracture heal itself?’

You are in the right place! In this article, we will take you through the best ways to relieve ankle pain, improve ankle strength and get the best results following your ankle injury.

Ankle injuries are one of the most common bone and joint injuries that occur. Having an ankle fracture puts a strain on your everyday life, as standing and walking can become very difficult, or unattainable. This can be frustrating and sometimes we do not know where to start with what we can and can’t do. 

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What Does An Ankle Fracture Look Like?

An ankle fracture involves one or more of the three bones in the ankle joint: the tibia (shinbone), the fibula (outer bone of the lower leg), or the talus. Most commonly, an ankle break is caused by a rotational force, where the ankle is twisted or rolled. Broken ankles can also be caused by a high-force impact, such as from a fall or trauma/collision. However, it can also occur due to medical conditions like osteoporosis. 

Those breaks that occur suddenly, with a specific incident or injury, are called traumatic ankle fractures. But a break can also be caused by repetitive stress or impact over time. This is known as a stress fracture.

If you suspect you have broken your ankle, you may have little to a lot of pain depending on the extent of the fracture. However, other symptoms can indicate a broken ankle, including pain weight bearing/ unable to weight bear, swelling, bruising, tenderness, and deformity. 

 

ankle recovery- football

What Causes A Stress Fracture In The Ankle?

Stress fractures can occur in any of the three ankle bones, particularly the tibia or fibula. Also, they can occur in the navicular bone, which is separate from the ankle but is directly below the talus.

Typically, an ankle stress fracture occurs after someone begins a new activity that involves a significant impact on the foot, such as running or jumping sports. They can also occur in an active person who increases their activity quickly (overload), for example when someone who is used to jogging 3 miles a week starts to train for a 26-mile marathon.

What Are The Most Common Ankle Fractures?

Lateral malleolus fracture: This is the most common type of ankle fracture. It is a break of the lateral malleolus, the bony bump on the outside of the ankle.

 

Bimalleolar ankle fracture: This is the second-most common type, which involves breaks of both the lateral malleolus and the medial malleolus. 

 

Trimalleolar ankle fracture: This fracture involves breaks in three sides of the ankle: the medial malleolus, the lateral malleolus and the distal of the posterior malleolus of the tibia.

 

Pilon fracture: This is a fracture through the weight-bearing “roof” of the ankle. This is usually a higher energy traumatic injury resulting from a fall from a height.

 

As the number of fracture lines increases, so does the risk of long-term joint damage. Trimalleolar ankle fractures and pilon fractures have the most cartilage injury and, therefore, have a higher risk of arthritis in the future.

 

There are some additional, unique types of fractures which you occasionally see. The Maisonneuve fracture, for example, involves damage and disruption of the ligaments around the ankle associated with a fracture of the fibula at the level of the knee. For this type of injury, an ankle X-ray might not show a fracture or present with the instability associated with this injury, as the bone fracture itself is higher up above the ankle, and the ligament injuries can only be seen with other forms of imaging, such as an MRI.

 

Within each of the above types, the fracture will be either non-displaced, where the bones are broken, but still in correct position and alignment. Or it will be displaced, where the fractured parts of bone are separated or misaligned. The treatment will then be decided on depending on the fracture alignment and stability of the ankle.

 

When to Seek Medical Care For Ankle Pain

 

When you have sustained an ankle, there are things you can look for to determine whether or not you need to see a doctor or go to A&E. If you are experiencing any of the following, seek medical help as soon as you can:

  • You cannot weight bear on the ankle.
  • Severe pain that is not easing 
  • Gross deformity of the ankle bones
  • Bones visible outside your skin
  • Inability to move your toes
  • Inability to move your ankle at all
  • Ankle or foot numbness
  • Cold or blue foot

 

return to sport after shoulder physiotherapy

How Is A Broken Ankle Diagnosed?

X-rays are usually required to determine whether there is a broken bone as opposed to a soft-tissue injury like a sprain, as ankle sprains and breaks can have similar symptoms. Other radiology imaging, such as an MRI, may be used to determine the full depth of the injury and rule out any other injuries, such as ligament damage. 

If the imaging shows that you have an ankle fracture, you will be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. Some ankle breaks do not require surgery. But when they do, you must receive the appropriate surgery, otherwise, you may lose function of your ankle, develop ankle instability, arthritis or even need an ankle replacement operation. Early and correct intervention is the key to preserving the ankle joint over the long term.

 

Treatment Options For A Broken Ankle

Once an ankle fracture has been diagnosed, there are different treatment options depending on factors such as the location and severity of the fracture. If your ankle fracture is mild, and your bones are stable, casting or a brace will be used to keep it stable.

On the other hand, if your ankle fracture is more severe and unstable, or you’ve broken the joint in more than one place, surgery may be needed. Surgery is used in those cases where your ankle would unlikely heal with just bracing or splinting. Surgery usually involves stabilising your fracture with stainless steel or titanium plates and screws.

 

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What’s Recovery Like?

Whether your ankle fracture requires surgery, or just a cast/ brace, physiotherapy/sports therapy is an essential part of your recovery, lessening your chances of issues occurring later on. Make sure you check with your healthcare professional when it is advised to begin rehabilitation. Some fractures may require immediate/early activity and weight bearing to speed fracture healing. Whereas, other fractures need to be immobilised and avoid weight-bearing for some time.

 

Physiotherapy/sports therapy helps you to regain full range of motion, strength and stability in your ankle after it has been immobilised during the initial phase of the healing process. If you want to get back to full mobility, rehabilitation is essential. Muscle engagement will help with blood flow, reduce swelling and stiffness, and enhance the exchange of nutrients to the damaged tissues. It also helps reduce muscle atrophy.

Most fractures heal in 6-8 weeks, but this differs depending on what bones are involved. Some fractures may take even longer, especially if there is tendon or ligament involvement as well. If you’re active in sports, it could be anywhere from a few months to a year before you can get back to your normal level of activity. 

 

Prevention Of Ankle Injuries

The most effective way in preventing any ankle injury is to incorporate stability, proprioception and strengthening exercises as part of an overall fitness plan. You can get advice from a physio/sports therapist on what exercises will be best suited to you, and if you play sports, sport-specific exercises and conditioning will be in place.

 

Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of suffering an ankle fracture include:

  • Warm-up/cool down
  • Correct technique
  • Starting a new exercise or fitness program slowly, and gradually increasing your training
  • Wearing orthotics and properly supportive shoes for your activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Consuming calcium-rich foods to build bone strength

Want To Work With Us?

 

If you have sustained an ankle fracture, get treatment as soon as possible. Call us on 0333 567 0663 to schedule a FREE phone consultation with one of our team, or book an appointment online with us today at www.thephysiocrew.co.uk

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Will An Ankle Fracture Heal Itself? 

You have probably found this page by searching ‘will an ankle fracture heal itself?’ You are in the right place! In this article, we will take you through the best ways to relieve ankle pain, improve ankle strength and get the best results following your ankle injury.

 

Ankle injuries are one of the most common bones and joint injuries that occur. Having an ankle fracture puts a strain on your everyday life, as standing and walking can become very difficult, or unattainable. This can be frustrating and sometimes we do not know where to start with what we can and can’t do. 

 

What Does An Ankle Fracture Look Like?

An ankle fracture involves one or more of the three bones in the ankle joint: the tibia (shinbone), the fibula (outer bone of the lower leg), or the talus. Most commonly, an ankle break is caused by a rotational force, where the ankle is twisted or rolled. Broken ankles can also be caused by a high-force impact, such as from a fall or trauma/collision. However, it can also occur due to medical conditions like osteoporosis. 

 

Those breaks that occur suddenly, with a specific incident or injury, are called traumatic ankle fractures. But a break can also be caused by repetitive stress or impact over time. This is known as a stress fracture.

 

If you suspect you have broken your ankle, you may have little to a lot of pain depending on the extent of the fracture. However, other symptoms can indicate a broken ankle, including pain weight bearing/ unable to weight bear, swelling, bruising, tenderness, and deformity. 

 

What Causes A Stress Fracture In The Ankle?

 

Stress fractures can occur in any of the three ankle bones, particularly the tibia or fibula. Also, they can occur in the navicular bone, which is separate from the ankle but is directly below the talus.

 

Typically, an ankle stress fracture occurs after someone begins a new activity that involves a significant impact on the foot, such as running or jumping sports. They can also occur in an active person who increases their activity quickly (overload), for example when someone who is used to jogging 3 miles a week starts to train for a 26-mile marathon.

 

What Are The Most Common Ankle Fractures?

Lateral malleolus fracture: This is the most common type of ankle fracture. It is a break of the lateral malleolus, the bony bump on the outside of the ankle.

 

Bimalleolar ankle fracture: This is the second-most common type, which involves breaks of both the lateral malleolus and the medial malleolus. 

 

Trimalleolar ankle fracture: This fracture involves breaks in three sides of the ankle: the medial malleolus, the lateral malleolus and the distal of the posterior malleolus of the tibia.

 

Pilon fracture: This is a fracture through the weight-bearing “roof” of the ankle. This is usually a higher-energy traumatic injury resulting from a fall from a height.

 

As the number of fracture lines increases, so does the risk of long-term joint damage. Trimalleolar ankle fractures and pilon fractures have the most cartilage injury and, therefore, have a higher risk of arthritis in the future.

 

There are some additional, unique types of fractures which you occasionally see. The Maisonneuve fracture, for example, involves damage and disruption of the ligaments around the ankle associated with a fracture of the fibula at the level of the knee. For this type of injury, an ankle X-ray might not show a fracture or present with the instability associated with this injury, as the bone fracture itself is higher up above the ankle, and the ligament injuries can only be seen with other forms of imaging, such as an MRI.

 

Within each of the above types, the fracture will be either non-displaced, where the bones are broken, but still in correct position and alignment. Or it will be displaced, where the fractured parts of bone are separated or misaligned. The treatment will then be decided on depending on the fracture alignment and stability of the ankle.

 

When to Seek Medical Care For Ankle Pain

 

When you have sustained an ankle, there are things you can look for to determine whether or not you need to see a doctor or go to A&E. If you are experiencing any of the following, seek medical help as soon as you can:

 

  • You cannot weight bear on the ankle.
  • Severe pain that is not easing 
  • Gross deformity of the ankle bones
  • Bones visible outside your skin
  • Inability to move your toes
  • Inability to move your ankle at all
  • Ankle or foot numbness
  • Cold or blue foot

 

 

How Is A Broken Ankle Diagnosed?

 

X-rays are usually required to determine whether there is a broken bone as opposed to a soft-tissue injury like a sprain, as ankle sprains and breaks can have similar symptoms. Other radiology imaging, such as an MRI, may be used to determine the full depth of the injury and rule out any other injuries, such as ligament damage. 

 

If the imaging shows that you have an ankle fracture, you will be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. Some ankle breaks do not require surgery. But when they do, you must receive the appropriate surgery, otherwise, you may lose function of your ankle, develop ankle instability, arthritis or even need an ankle replacement operation. Early and correct intervention is the key to preserving the ankle joint over the long term.

 

Treatment Options For A Broken Ankle

 

Once an ankle fracture has been diagnosed, there are different treatment options depending on factors such as location and severity of the fracture. If your ankle fracture is mild, and your bones are stable, casting or a brace will be used to keep it stable.

 

On the other hand, if your ankle fracture is more severe and unstable, or you’ve broken the joint in more than one place, surgery may be needed. Surgery is used in those cases where your ankle would unlikely heal with just bracing or splinting. Surgery usually involves stabilising your fracture with stainless steel or titanium plates and screws.

 

 

What’s Recovery Like?

 

Whether your ankle fracture requires surgery, or just a cast/ brace, physiotherapy/sports therapy is an essential part of your recovery, lessening your chances of issues occurring later on. Make sure you check with your healthcare professional when it is advised to begin rehabilitation. Some fractures may require immediate/early activity and weight bearing to speed fracture healing. Whereas, other fractures need to be immobilised and avoid weight-bearing for some time.

 

Physiotherapy/sports therapy helps you to regain full range of motion, strength and stability in your ankle after it has been immobilised during the initial phase of the healing process. If you want to get back to full mobility, rehabilitation is essential. Muscle engagement will help with blood flow, reduce swelling and stiffness, and enhance the exchange of nutrients to the damaged tissues. It also helps reduce muscle atrophy.

 

Most fractures heal in 6-8 weeks, but this differs depending on what bones are involved. Some fractures may take even longer, especially if there is tendon or ligament involvement as well. If you’re active in sports, it could be anywhere from a few months to a year before you can get back to your normal level of activity. 

 

Prevention Of Ankle Injuries

 

The most effective way in preventing any ankle injury is to incorporate stability, proprioception and strengthening exercises as part of an overall fitness plan. You can get advice from a physio/sports therapist on what exercises will be best suited to you, and if you play sports, sport-specific exercises and conditioning will be in place.

 

Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of suffering an ankle fracture include:

  • Warm-up/cool down
  • Correct technique
  • Starting a new exercise or fitness program slowly, and gradually increasing your training
  • Wearing orthotics and properly supportive shoes for your activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Consuming calcium-rich foods to build bone strength

 

If you have sustained an ankle fracture, get treatment as soon as possible. Call us on 0333 567 0663 to schedule a FREE phone consultation with one of our team, or book an appointment online with us today at www.thephysiocrew.co.uk