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Is Your Ankle Sprained or Broken? How to Tell the Difference

Do you know if your ankle is sprained or broken? Understanding the difference between a sprained ankle and a broken ankle is key in determining the next steps in rest, recovery, and treatment. 

What is an Ankle Sprain

Injuries to your ankle, like rolling or twisting that cause your ankle to contort into unwanted positions are commonly referred to as sprained ankles. These types of injuries can tear the ligaments around your ankle. 

Since ligaments help stabilize joints and prevent excess movement, sprained ankles usually occur when ligaments are forced to move outside of their regular range of movement. 

What is an Ankle Fracture? 

An ankle fracture occurs when either the fibula bone (the outside ankle bone) or the tibia bone (the inside ankle bone) breaks in at least one place. This usually occurs due to direct trauma or a simple misstep.

Therefore, the severity of fractures can range from small cracks in the bone to splintering that tears the skin.

What’s the Difference Between a Sprained Ankle and a Broken Ankle

While both broken ankles and sprained ankles can be serious injuries, a sprained ankle only includes injury to the ligaments, tendons, and soft tissue, while a broken ankle will also include an injury to the bone. 

Because of this, sprained ankles tend to less severe than broken ankles.

How to Tell if It’s a Sprain or Fracture

The simplest way to tell if it’s a sprain or fracture is trying to bear weight and stand/walk on the injured ankle. If it is fractured, there is a high likelihood of instability and inability to bear weight.

But a severe sprain may disguise  the symptoms of a broken ankle, so it’s important to consult with a physician for an official diagnosis. 

Ankle Sprain Symptoms

Symptoms of a sprained ankle generally include pain, inflammation at the injury site, bruising, and inability to move your ankle through normal ranges of motion, which may cause limping when walking. These symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the sprained ankle.

Broken Ankle Symptoms

Broken ankles often include similar symptoms as sprained ankles, such as pain, inflammation, and bruising. On top of that, the inability to put weight onto your injured ankle and stand/walk without your ankle giving way can make the symptoms of a broken ankle much more severe and painful.

How to Treat a Sprained Ankle

Treating a sprained ankle with multiple steps is key to regaining your ankle’s range of motion and keeping your ankle flexible.

Resting and icing consistently is the first step in order to reduce inflammation. Once ready to start moving to regain mobility in the ankle, daily stretching of your calf and hamstring with a Yoga Strong Strap will enhance circulation and help flush out the swelling more quickly.

Including yoga poses such as Warrior 1 and Crescent into your rehab routine are also helpful to opening up the hips, which can impact your ankle’s range of motion.

Once you’re ready for advanced moves, you can try single leg balance yoga poses, such as Warrior 3, to gain more stability and proprioception to your ankle. 

How to Treat a Broken Ankle

Treating a broken ankle requires a very different process than a sprained ankle. Once officially diagnosed by a physician, a broken ankle often requires casting or a boot to restrict ankle movement and allow enough time for the bone to heal properly.

But once the cast or boot is able to come off, it’s vital to immediately work on rehabilitating the strength and mobility in the ankle. Yoga poses such as Child’s Pose will help with restoring plantar flexion (toes pointed down), while yoga poses such as Crescent and Warrior 2 will help with restoring dorsiflexion (toes flexed).

Adding additional resistance to your stretches and exercises with Yoga Strong Mini Workout Bands can help strengthen the ankle’s surrounding muscles.

Exercises like isometrics, monster walks, and calf raises can all be enhanced with the resistance bands are great for accelerating recovery and returning back to a normal routine.