Ankle sprain vs. fracture

Written by steve repsys
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Chances are that you have suffered some kind of ankle injury in your life. Intelihealth.com reports that millions of ankle injuries transpire each year in the United States. This article looks to explain the difference between an ankle sprain and an ankle fracture.

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Sprains

Sprains are the most frequent type of ankle injury. An ankle sprain occurs when the ankle is forced into an awkward position causing the ligaments around the ankle to stretch or tear. Ankle ligaments attach bones with each other around the ankle. Ankles are often susceptible to sprains due to the joints being miniature in stature and the amount of force being constantly placed on ankles due to walking and running.

Types of Sprains

There are a variety of ankle sprains. A first degree sprain is classified as an injury with mild ligament damage and is associated with mild pain. With a second degree sprain, there is both stretching and tearing of some ligaments. A second degree sprain results in inflammation, discomfort and a moderate loss of stability. With a third degree sprain, at least one ankle ligament is torn, causing severe swelling and pain. In addition, the ankle joint is loose and unsound.

Fractures

A fractured ankle is more severe than a sprained ankle. When an ankle is fractured, a bone is partially or completely broken. Fractures are often confused with a sprain, but a fracture and sprain are not the same. A fracture involves symptoms such as severe pain, prominent swelling, blisters, bruising and incapacity to walk. If a bone sticks out of the skin, it's an immediate sign of a fracture and medical attention is needed quickly.

Types of Fractures

Like sprains, there are different kinds of ankle fractures as bones can break in different ways. A stress fracture involves a crack in the outer part of the bone. If a stress fracture is not treated, it can get develop into a larger fracture. A simple fracture, more severe than a stress fracture, occurs when the bone snaps in two pieces. With a comminuted fracture, the bone is splintered into many pieces. A fracture can also be open, in which a part of the bone breaks through the skin, or closed, in which the bone does not break through the skin.

Treatment

Treatment for sprains and fractures depends on the type and severity. Treatment for a sprain often does not require surgery and a sprain can heal usually within six weeks. With more severe sprains, recovery could take up to three months and require physiotherapy for restoration of muscle coordination and strength. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to treat pain and swelling. With a fracture, treatment is often more radical. A fracture can be healed through the use of a cast or splint. Also, pain medications may be prescribed to alleviate severe aching. Depending on the severity, a fracture could require surgery.

Getting Medical Attention

Get medical attention immediately if the bone breaks through the skin. Pain is not an indication of a fracture. A diagnosis can be made with an X-ray. If you are not able to put pressure on the ankle or if the inured area appears misshapen, of if the pain and swelling become too severe, seek medical attention.

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