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How Can I Tell if I Have an Ankle Fracture or Sprain?

Ankle injuries are one of the most prevalent injuries in the United States, with over one million reported cases occurring each year. Most turn out to be sprains or fractures, injuries that present similar symptoms at first but require different treatment. A fracture occurs when one or more ankle bones are broken, such as the tibia, fibula, calcaneus or talus, while a sprain involves overstretching ligaments past their normal movement. Both injuries can be incredibly painful and have similar causes.

An ankle sprain is common in athletes and ranges from mild to severe. The most critical symptom is not being able to walk, and you may experience swelling, bruising and abrupt pain. Depending upon the grade of ankle sprain, the most severe cases may involve excruciating pain to the point of not being able to put weight on your foot, and lower grade ankle sprains may only experience a little soreness with minimal swelling. In any one of the cases, the primary treatment that should be done right away is RICE procedure: Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. You should get off your ankle as soon as possible, apply ice and wrap it in compression bandages before elevating it with a few pillows or an exercise ball. If it is a severe sprain, you may need to wear an offloading boot or splint to stabilize the ankle. You may also need physical therapy before resuming any athletic activity.

An ankle fracture will always require professional medical attention. If you do not feel any relief from RICE protocol and the swelling does not go down, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If your ankle becomes numb and appears deformed, you should see a physician immediately after the injury occurs. A cracking sound is often associated with this type of injury. An ankle x-ray will be done by the physician to evaluate the type of fracture and appropriate treatment can be rendered accordingly.

In order to determine the best course of treatment and proper diagnosis for your ankle, you should contact Ankle and Foot Specialist of New Jersey. Dr. Thapar will give you a comprehensive ankle exam to determine the exact problem and provide you with the tools to heal properly. Give us a call at (908) 222-8980, (732) 356-FOOT (3668) or request an appointment with our Warren or South Plainfield office (right on the border with Edison) online today.

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