Broken ankles require immediate medical attention to heal properly and restore your range of motion. A sprained ankle can be uncomfortable and painful but is usually treatable with at-home remedies and pain control. Learn the difference to know what measures you need to take for proper care.
How to identify a sprain
Remove any foot covering, including shoes and socks, before inspecting your ankle. Wash the area with soap and water and dry thoroughly. You’ll need to inspect closely to find the differences between a break and a sprain.
Sprained Ankle Symptoms
Once the ankle is clean and exposed, look for:
- Slight discoloration
- Severe pain
- Reduced range of motion
Discoloration will appear on or near the ankle, often extending into the top of the foot toward the toes. The ankle and foot may not experience any discoloration at all.
Pain from a sprain is more intense than pain from a break. Stretched ligaments and muscles will stimulate a large series of nerves that send pain signals throughout a radial area near the ankle.
You may also find it difficult to move your ankle. Lifting your ankle may be impossible without extreme pain. The area may start to swell, making movement even more difficult.
What does a sprained ankle look like?
A sprained ankle takes on a different appearance depending on how serious the injury is.
Minor sprained ankles will have no discoloration but could be accompanied by swelling and a loss of range of motion. You may feel pain only when trying to move or stand.
Moderate to severe sprained ankles are accompanied by slight bruising or reddening and pain may continue even after the ankle is relaxed. Swelling will be noticeable from a distance.
How to identify a broken ankle
A broken ankle may not be noticeable without first identifying the symptoms of a broken ankle. Hairline fractures are difficult to spot without an x-ray.
Broken Ankle Symptoms
Symptoms of a broken ankle are mostly distinct from those of a sprained ankle. You may experience:
- Severe discoloration
- Unusual bumps or protrusions
- Slight or no pain
Discoloration from a broken ankle will be bright and red. You may also notice bruising in deeply broken ankles.
In place of pain, you may feel numbness and tingling.
What does a broken ankle look like?
If the break is large enough, it may push the muscle tissue and skin outward. The protrusion will be visible by the naked eye. Redness and bruising are noticeably more pronounced than that of a sprained ankle.
How do I treat a sprained or broken ankle?
How to treat a sprained ankle
Apply ice to the affected area in 15-minute intervals. After one 15 minute session, remove the ice pack for 3-5 minutes before replacing it. This will help reduce swelling and increase blood flow to promote healing.
How to treat a broken ankle
A broken ankle needs the expertise and tools of an educated medical professional. Do not attempt to treat a broken ankle at home. Avoid homemade casts and splints as they can cause further injury and pain.