Ankle Pain: Is It A Sprain Or A Fracture?

When you think about it, your ankles take a lot of abuse. Every step, spin, hop, skip, and jump is one more added impact on the joints that spend their whole workday supporting your entire bodyweight. And since it can happen stepping over a puddle or playing Frisbee in the park, it’s no wonder that an estimated 25,000 people a day sprain their ankles. Those sprains can be anything from mild to severe (with equivalent levels of associated pain and swelling), so how do you know when you’ve actually broken your ankle instead of sprained it? Can you tell just by looking?

The difference between a sprain and a break

The bones of your ankle are connected and held in place by ligaments. When you sprain your ankle, it’s these ligaments that are actually injured, ranging anywhere from a slight pull or stretch to a complete tear – usually when you “roll” the ankle inwards or outwards. Expect some pain, swelling, and sensitivity around the area, as well. However, if you can stand to put some weight on the ankle soon after the injury without feeling excessive pain around the ankle bones themselves, you probably have a sprain of some degree. With a mild sprain you should actually even be able to walk around some.

When you should see a doctor

Not being able to put weight on the ankle and walk around after afterwards suggests a fracture of some degree – especially if you feel pain around the ankle joint. But the only way to tell for sure is with an X-ray. If after a few days of RICE treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) the swelling and pain don’t decrease or go away completely, see a physician to get checked out for a broken ankle. Every AppleCare clinic is equipped with X-ray machines and all the necessary medical expertise to let you know what’s in store for your ankle. We have extended operating hours and no appointment is necessary, so skip the costly emergency room visit and let the docs at AppleCare get you back on your feet.