How to Start Walking After a Broken Ankle

Mar 29, 2022

how-to-start-walking-after-a-broken-ankle
A broken ankle can put a serious wrench into your daily activities. Each ankle supports the up-and-down movement of the foot, and strong ankles are important for people of all ages. We need strong, flexible ankles for balance, stability, and regular activities like walking and running. When you suffer a broken ankle, it can be a painful injury that may restrict your mobility. A broken ankle is also known as a fractured ankle. There are three bones that make up the ankle joint, including the tibia, fibula, and talus. If you suffer a broken ankle, then you will need to work with orthopedic doctors to rehab and recover. Your fractured ankle recovery time will depend on the type and severity of the break, along with your progress with rehabbing and regaining your mobility.

Ankle Fracture Symptoms

When you break your ankle, you will start to experience pain immediately. You may even hear a snapping or grinding sound of the bone break during the injury. Broken ankle symptoms include severe pain and tenderness. An ankle fracture will cause rapid swelling in the area that can occur in your ankle and foot. You may also develop bruising around the ankle and injury site. If you break your ankle, you will likely have difficulty bearing weight on the fractured ankle. This can also cause you to have difficulty walking or moving the affected foot. An ankle fracture may be visible to the naked eye because your foot may look crooked or dislocated. The pain of a broken ankle may lead to dizziness and queasiness.

Sprained Ankle vs. Broken Ankle

A broken ankle is a much more serious injury than a sprained ankle. However, at the moment, you might be wondering if you have a sprained ankle or a broken ankle. While an ankle fracture affects the bones in the ankle joint, a sprained ankle affects the ligaments. The ankle joint has tough bands of tissues known as ligaments that connect bones to one another. A sprained ankle can cause pain and swelling, similar to a broken ankle. You may also have trouble putting weight on your ankle after a sprain. But a broken ankle will be significantly more painful than a sprained ankle. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have a sprained ankle or a broken ankle, orthopedic doctors can diagnose your injury. In addition to a physical examination, they may also run diagnostic imaging tests like an X-ray or CT scan to determine whether the injury affects ligaments or bones.

5 Common Causes of an Ankle Fracture

When your ankle is under too much pressure or sudden force of impact, it can cause one or more bones in the joint to break. Here are five common causes of an ankle fracture.

Trip and Fall

You might be surprised to learn that a sudden trip and fall can lead to a serious injury like a broken ankle. When you trip because of an uneven surface or ill-fitting shoes, you can fall and put sudden and excessive weight on one or both of your ankles. This sudden pressure on your ankles can lead to an ankle fracture. Rolling your ankle can also cause you to stumble or trip and even lead to a broken bone.

Sudden Impact

A sudden impact or blow to the ankle can also cause a broken ankle. If you accidentally drop a heavy object on your foot, it can lead to a broken bone. Trauma to the ankle can lead to a hairline fracture or crack in the bone or can cause a complete fracture.

Overuse

Activities that require repetitive use and force on the ankle can lead to an overuse injury. Stress fractures are a common example of overuse injuries. Runners, weekend warriors, and athletes are at greater risk for an overuse injury like an ankle fracture.

Sports

Playing sports can put you at higher risk for a broken ankle. A sudden blow to the ankle during a high-impact sport could cause an ankle fracture. Certain sports also require repetitive stress on the ankle joint, like soccer, football, and basketball. Heavy impact after landing a jump awkwardly can also cause a broken ankle.

Car Accident

An ankle fracture is also a type of car accident injury. The sudden force of impact during a car accident can put significant pressure on the ankle joint. Damage to the front end of the vehicle can risk a crush injury to your feet below the dashboard. Injuries to ankles and feet are often overlooked with car accidents but can significantly impact your healthy functioning.

Types of Ankle Fractures

There are several types of ankle fractures, depending on what bones are involved and the severity of the injury. Here are three types of ankle fractures and how they can affect you.

Lateral Malleolus Fracture

The most common type of ankle fracture is known as the lateral malleolus fracture. This type of fracture occurs when the bottom of your fibula, or calf bone, is broken. This bone is connected to the lateral malleolus, the bony knob on the outside of your ankle. Common causes of a lateral malleolus fracture include a sudden twisting or rolling of the foot and ankle or a sudden blow to the ankle.

Bimalleolar Fracture

The second most common type of ankle fracture is called a bimalleolar fracture. The ankle joint has a bony knob along the outside and inside of your foot. A bimalleolar fracture refers to a break that affects both the calf bone and shin bone. Ligaments in the ankle are typically also injured with this type of break. This type of ankle fracture will typically require surgery.

Displaced vs. Nondisplaced Fracture

A broken ankle will typically be referred to as either a displaced or a nondisplaced fracture. A displaced fracture refers to when the bone breaks into pieces that separate or become misaligned. A nondisplaced fracture means the broken bones maintain their structure and stay in the correct position. A displaced ankle fracture is more likely to require surgery to fix the broken bone, while a nondisplaced fracture may be able to heal with nonsurgical treatment and rehabilitation.

Broken Ankle Recovery Time

Your broken ankle recovery time will depend on what type of break you have suffered and the severity of the injury. Here is what you can expect with a broken ankle and how long it may be until you are on your feet again.

Immediately After the Injury

Immediately after the ankle injury, you will likely not be able to put any weight on the injured ankle. You should see a doctor as soon as possible for an official diagnosis. It is important to keep your weight off the ankle as much as possible. Elevate the injured ankle by propping it up on cushions while you sit or lie down. Applying ice or a cold compress to the ankle can help minimize the swelling that will occur with a broken ankle. Wrap ice in a towel or cloth before wrapping it gently around your ankle.

Assistive Devices

In most cases of a broken ankle, you will require some type of assistive device to get around at first. This may include crutches that help you keep your weight off the injured ankle. For a more severe ankle fracture, you may need a cast to help keep your bones in place while they heal. You may be able to wear a walking boot or splint that helps provide your ankle with support throughout the healing process. A cane or walker can also help provide you with support and stability while you recover from a broken ankle and help reduce your risk of falling.

Nonsurgical vs. Surgica

Whether or not you need surgery will depend on the severity of the break. It is possible for an ankle fracture to break the skin, known as a compound ankle fracture. If the bone pierces the skin, it will require surgery and have a longer recovery time than a mild ankle fracture. If an ankle fracture cannot be fully healed by a cast, boot, or splint, then you may need surgery. Some ankle fractures may require an orthopedic surgeon to use metal rods, plates, or screws to help reset and realign the bones.

Resuming Mobility

The timeline for when you can start walking after a broken ankle will also depend on whether or not you needed surgery. An ankle fracture that requires surgery can take an average of 12 weeks to heal. The type of injury, your age, and overall health will also factor into when you will be able to start walking again. For a nonsurgical ankle fracture recovery, you may be able to resume mobility once the bones are set and the swelling has gone down. However, you will typically require weeks of assisted support to the ankle, meaning you would not put weight on the injured foot without a walking boot, cast, or splint.

How to Walk After a Broken Ankle

Each person’s body will react to a broken ankle slightly differently. Your orthopedic doctor will work with you to determine the best way for you to walk after a broken ankle. In some cases, people with a fractured ankle will be able to walk right away, while others may not be able to bear weight on the injured ankle for months. Your recovery period from a broken ankle will also depend on your individual needs and treatment goals. Resting is a key aspect of your treatment and recovery from an ankle injury. Here are some treatment techniques and what you can expect with broken ankle recovery.

Stretches

You can start working on light stretches once your doctor has cleared you to move and put weight on your ankle. Stretching your ankle gently will help you start to regain mobility in the joint. Ankle stretches like pointing and flexing your toes can help you regain the range of motion in the injured ankle. Rolling your ankle in gentle circles, both clockwise and counterclockwise, will also slowly reintroduce the musculature in your ankles to movement and exercise.

Exercises

Certain ankle exercises can also help you regain functioning and mobility in the injured ankle. Exercises can help strengthen your ankle after the muscles and ligaments may have weakened during your rest and recovery. Ankle exercises can also help improve your balance and walking ability. Strengthening the muscles that support your ankle will help provide better structure and support to the whole ankle joint. Even exercises for your hips, legs, and knees can help provide your ankles with better support going forward.

Physical Therapy

Your orthopedic doctor may recommend you work with a physical therapist as part of your rehabilitation and recovery process. Recovering from a broken ankle can take time, and you want to make sure you are in the best shape to do so. A physical therapist can help you as you learn how to move with assistive devices like a walking boot or crutches. Your physical therapist can also help you through weight-bearing restrictions and once you are able to fully use the ankle again. Physical therapy can help you reduce your pain, improve your strength, and regain your range of motion.

Everyone’s timeline for healing from an ankle fracture will be different. However, your team of orthopedic doctors and physical therapists will work with you to determine your prognosis and plan for treatment and rehab. At AICA Orthopedics in Tucker, our team of doctors includes orthopedic doctors, surgeons, and physical therapists who will be with you through the entire process, from diagnosis to recovery. Our team of Tucker orthopedic doctors can diagnose an ankle fracture on-site using state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging tools like X-rays and CT scans right on-site for your convenience. We also offer continued care and support like physical therapy all in one convenient location. Learn more about how our team of doctors at AICA Orthopedics in Tucker can help you start walking again after a broken ankle!

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