Pain after ankle injuries can either be from a torn ligament (ankle sprain) or broken bone (ankle fracture). An ankle fracture is a painful condition where there is a break in one or more bones forming the ankle joint. The ankle joint is stabilized by different ligaments and other soft tissues, which may also be injured during an ankle fracture.
The ankle joint is composed of three bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus, which articulate together. The ends of the fibula and tibia (lower leg bones) form the inner and outer malleolus, which are the bony protrusions of the ankle joint that on either side of the ankle. The joint is protected by a fibrous membrane called a joint capsule and filled with synovial fluid to enable smooth movement.
Ankle fractures can occur from excessive rolling and twisting of the ankle – often from activities which cause sudden stress to the joint such as jumping or falling.
Ankle fractures are classified according to their location. The different types of ankle fractures are:
- Lateral malleolus fracture, in which the lateral malleolus, the outer part of the ankle, is fractured.
- Medial malleolus fracture, in which the medial malleolus, the inner part of the ankle, is fractured.
- Posterior malleolus fracture, in which the posterior malleolus, the bony hump of the tibia, is fractured.
- Bimalleolar fractures, in which both lateral and medial malleolus bones are fractured.
- Trimalleolar fractures, in which all three lateral, medial, and posterior bones are fractured.
- immediate swelling and pain around the ankle
- impaired mobility
- Sometimes there is blood which cause sudden stress to the joint
- With a severe fracture, deformity around the ankle joint is clearly visible and a bone may protrude through the skin.
An ankle fracture is diagnosed by thorough physical exam and medical history. X rays, CT scans and MRIs may be ordered to evaluate the injury to bones and ligaments.
Even before seeing a doctor, ice packs can be applied and the foot elevated to minimize pain and swelling. The treatment of an ankle fracture depends upon the type and the stability of the fractured bone. For non-surgical treatment, the ankle bone is realigned and special splints or a plaster cast is placed around the joint for at least 2-3 weeks to allow the bones to heal.
With surgical treatment, the fractured bone is accessed by making an incision over the ankle area and then specially designed plates are screwed onto the bone to realign and stabilize the fractured parts. The incision is then closed, and the ankle is immobilized with a splint or cast.
Physical therapy of the ankle joint may be recommended by your doctor. After ankle surgery, avoid applying weight on the ankle. Crutches may be recommended while walking for at least six weeks.