Broken Ankle/Broken Foot

1 What is Broken Ankle/Broken Foot?

Broken ankle refers to an ankle fracture that ranges from a simple break in one of the bones to several fractures in the ankle. Simple fractures may not affect walking, but severe form may stop one from putting pressure on the bones. 

Broken ankle result in pain, swelling, and even deformities around the ankle. It is diagnosed based on physical examination, history of symptoms, and imaging techniques. Casting, taping, and surgery are some of the treatment methods for broken ankle. 

It may take one to two months to regain full functioning of the ankle. Severe fractures may take more time for healing.

2 Symptoms

Pain is the most common symptom of broken ankle, and this may affect walking. The throbbing pain may increase with activity and reduce with rest. Soft tissue damage in the ankle result in swelling around the region.

 Bruising of the ankle joint is also common. The bruising track down toward the sole of the foot. In severe form of fracture, ankle is deformed. This may be due to dislocation of the ankle joint where the bones are misaligned. If nerves are affected, it may cause numbness and affect movement of foot or toes.

3 Causes

Broken ankle is caused by severe stress that is beyond the strength of the bones of the region. The most common causes of broken ankle are

  • Overuse – repetitive use of the bones of the ankle, as in long distance running, cause tiny cracks on the bones. Cracks may form by normal use on a weak bone as in osteoporosis or stress fracture. 
  • Missteps – hitting the toe on a furniture, putting the wrong foot, or twisting the ankle may all lead to ankle fracture. 
  • Dropping a heavy object on the foot can cause broken ankle. 
  • Falling or landing on a foot while jumping from height puts extra pressure on the ankle, breaking it. 
  • Accidents are the most common causes of broken ankle. 

Some of the risk factors for having a broken ankle include: 

  • Participating in high impact sports like football, gymnastics, skiing, and ballet 
  • Certain conditions like osteoporosis and neuropathy
  • Certain occupations like working in construction site 
  • Using improper sports accessories

Female athletes are more prone to develop broken ankle when compared to men. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of broken ankle/broken foot is done by several tests.

Physical examination of the affected ankle reveals points of tenderness in foot and ankle. Checking for location of pain and the range of motion of the ankle is also included in the physical examination. Imaging techniques are used in confirmatory diagnosis based on the results from physical examination. 

X-ray and CT scan produce images of the break from different angle. In a bone scan, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein. This material specifically attaches to the damaged parts of the bone and appears as bright spots on imaging. MRI produces detailed visuals of the ligaments in the ankle. It is often useful in identifying fractures that cannot be seen in x-ray. 

5 Treatment

Treatment of broken ankle/broken foot depend on the location and severity of fracture. Medications are prescribed to relieve pain and swelling. Acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, ibuprofen are commonly used. Other procedures like reduction, immobilization, and surgery help to correct the damage and aid in healing. 

  • Reduction – this is a procedure to realign the broken ends of fracture. Muscle relaxant, sedative, or a general anesthetic is given before the procedure. 
  • Immobilization – broken bones are immobilized to help in healing. Immobilization is done with the help of a cast or splint. Braces or boots are used to immobilize in minor fractures. Fractured toe is taped to the neighboring toe with a gauze for healing. 
  • Surgery – surgery is usually recommended for compound fracture. In severe fracture, pins, screws, and plates are needed to hold the bones in place for healing. 

6 Prevention

Broken ankle/broken foot can be prevented by taking adequate precautions. Wearing proper shoes for sports and other activities is the most important among them. Worn out shoes should be discarded and replaced with new ones. Alternating activities helps to prevent stress fractures

Thus running can be alternated with swimming or cycling. Healthy diet with calcium-rich foods helps build stronger muscles and bones. Strengthening muscles of ankles help to prevent chances of ankle fracture.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for prevention of broken ankle/broken foot.

Diet rich in silica, calcium, and phosphorous are suggested for better healing. Fish oil is a good source of vitamin D and helps in calcium absorption. 

Nutritional supplements of vitamin C, vitamin D, boron, glucosamine sulphate, and magnesium are also helpful. Horsetail baths and comfrey tincture are recommended in herbal remedies.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with broken ankle.

Ankle fracture requires professional help for complete healing. Ensure that the affected ankle is not injured further.

Keep the ankle raised to reduce pain and swelling.

Applying cold packs also help to reduce swelling.

9 Risks and Complications

In some rare cases, broken ankle may lead to complications like: