What happens when you push too hard on a stiff branch or land on a brittle board? More often than not, it snaps with a loud crack! Hard objects don’t have a whole lot of “give.” When something heavier or stronger presses them to the limit of their flexibility, they break. The same principle applies to your bones. They are strong and able to withstand hard impacts, but if a force surpasses their ability to absorb shock, they fracture. Any of your bones can be affected, including your ankle.
Cracking Under Pressure
Your ankle joint is a complex structure—it needs to handle your entire body weight but still be able to move both up and down as well as side to side. It’s actually made up of three bones: the talus, which sits directly above the heel bone, and the tibia and fibula, which make up the lower leg. A broken ankle occurs when one or more of these bones fracture. Many different things can exert the force needed to break them—hard landings, trips, falls, crush injuries like car accidents, and continued force on a stress fracture.
The lower leg bones are more likely to break than the talus, but also heal more easily. No matter which one has the problem, however, the condition is very painful and weakens the whole foot. When bones crack or snap, the pain is sharp and immediate. Putting weight on that ankle becomes increasingly uncomfortable. The area swells and will most likely bruise. It will also be tender to the touch. How serious the fracture is—and how long it will take to heal—depends on how far the bones displace from their original position.
Growing Back Together
If you think you have broken your ankle, you need to have it examined right away. Failing to seek treatment increases the risk of permanent instability, deformity, and additional conditions like arthritis and compartment syndrome. Dr. Robert Parker will examine the affected joint and request diagnostic images like x-rays. That way he is able to see whether or not the bones have taken damage and how severe the injury is. Once he has a clearer picture of the problem, he is able to help you move forward in healing.
The bones will need to be immobilized while they grow back together, sealing the crack. You will most likely need to wear a cast or a boot to hold your ankle still. Depending on the extent of the break, you may not be able to put any weight on the foot for a period of time. If the bones have displaced, Dr. Parker will need to realign them. You may need surgery to do this. Your ankle may also require pins or screws to hold the bones together while you recover so that they don’t separate again.
If you or someone you care about have a painful, swollen ankle, don’t just wrap it and hope it will feel better in a couple of days. The bones could be broken. Without treatment, you risk chronic ankle pain and instability. Instead, contact the experts at Parker Foot & Ankle for an appointment or more information. Visit the online contact page or call (281) 497-2850 to reach us and begin your path to healing.