How to Tell if You Broke or Sprained Your Ankle

Most of us have done it at some point: moved the wrong way or landed wrong from a fall or jump and ended up hurting our ankle. Because of the weight put on this important area of our body, it’s a relatively easy place to get hurt. And, depending on the seriousness of the injury, you can be looking at a few days of taking it easy all the way to staying off of your feet for the foreseeable future.

But, how can you tell? How do you know if your ankle has actually been broken -- where the bones have fractured -- or if it’s just a less-serious (but still incredibly painful) sprain -- where the ligaments surrounding the ankle are damaged? Here are a few tips:


One way to tell the difference between a sprain and a fracture is by how the ankle looks. Sprains -- even severe ones -- will result in a large amount of swelling and redness. While you might have both of those symptoms with a fracture, breaking a bone will often also result in your ankle looking wrong: bent out of shape, twisted in the wrong direction or bulging in all the wrong places.


Another way to tell the difference is by the pain. Yes, it hurts: but where does it hurt? A fracture will most likely hurt at the point in the bone where it snapped. A sprain, on the other hand, typically hurts in the softer, fleshier parts of your ankle.

In keeping with the pain, you can also pay attention to how it feels after the injury occurs. Sprains are usually very painful, and they stay painful for a long time. A fracture might be painful at first, but many patients report that soon after, the ankle actually begins to feel numb.


Not everyone knows this, but one way you can tell whether or not you’re dealing with a sprain of a fracture is the noise that it makes when the injury occurred. A sprain might be silent, or you might hear a popping sound (that’s the sound of the ligaments being stretched or hurt). A fracture is literally breaking bones, and the noise that goes with that is more or less the cracking or snapping sound that you might expect.

Seeking Help

If you have injured your ankle, it’s important to have a trained physician examine and treat the area as soon as possible. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Mid Atlantic Orthopedic Associates today.

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