Twisted/Fractured/Sprained Ankle

When you have an ankle injury, it can be difficult to walk or move without pain. Whether you had a bad fall, hurt your ankle playing sports or just stepped the wrong way, it can be hard to know if your ankle is twisted, sprained or fractured. 

The difference between twisted, sprained and fractured ankles

Even though ankle sprains are common, they are not always minor injuries. Here’s how to tell when you can treat your injury on your own, and when you need to see a doctor:

Twisted ankle

Have you ever stepped the wrong way and suddenly turned your ankle, but were able to “walk it off”? You most likely experienced a twisted ankle. When you twist your ankle, it means you have stretched the ligaments in your ankle past the usual point. Although it can be extremely painful when it happens, a twisted ankle may feel better quickly without any medical intervention. If your pain persists, consult with one of our Sports Medicine doctors to come up with a treatment plan tailored to you.

Sprained ankle

A sprained ankle is similar to a twisted ankle but to a greater degree. When you sprain your ankle, it means you have stretched, and possibly even torn, the ligaments of your ankle. If your ankle is swollen, bruised and painful after you twist it, then you have most likely sprained it. Ankle sprains can range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage there is to the ligaments. 

Fractured/Broken ankle

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your ankle is sprained or broken. A good indication that your ankle is fractured is if you hear a cracking noise during the injury. If your ankle looks deformed or crooked, feels numb, or if you have extreme pain and cannot put any weight on it, then it is probably fractured. A doctor can confirm that your ankle is fractured using an X-ray. It is recommended that you see an orthopaedic surgeon for any ankle fracture. 

Healing ankle injuries

If you twist your ankle, follow the R.I.C.E. method for healing:

  • R: rest your ankle
  • I: ice it if there is any swelling
  • C: use compression to immobilize and support your ankle
  • E: elevate your ankle above your heart to reduce swelling

For sprained ankles, follow the R.I.C.E. protocol and take over the counter pain medication to reduce swelling and pain. If the swelling and pain do not get better after several days, see your doctor. You may need to wear a boot or splint to stabilize your ankle until the sprain is healed. 

If your ankle is fractured, it means that one or more of the bones that make up your ankle is broken. You will need to wear a cast or boot to completely stabilize the bone until it is healed. Some casts require using crutches to make sure you don’t put any weight on your ankle, while some casts—called boots or walking casts—can be used while standing or walking short distances. If your ankle is unstable, you may need surgery to reposition the broken bone into normal alignment. Sometimes screws or metal plates are attached to keep the bones together while they heal. 

Contact Us

Do you think your ankle might be fractured, twisted or sprained? Schedule an appointment with our Sports Medicine physicians for a non-surgical treatment plan tailored to you. Please call (859) 212-5600 to make an appointment. 

If surgery is necessary, our physicians can provide a referral to one of our affiliated orthopaedic surgeons. For more information on surgical options, please contact us at