Broken Ankle Recovery Time: A Guide To How Long To Heal For A Broken / Fractured Ankle?

A Guide To Broken Ankle Recovery Times

Fractured & Broken Ankle Recovery Time Guide

Broken ankle man’s purple blue fiberglass / plaster leg cast and toes after a running injury

A broken or fractured ankle occurs when there is a partial or complete fracture in the ankle joint. Broken ankles can be caused through putting excessive stress on the joint either through heavy impact or twisting it beyond its range of movement. Sometimes the symptoms of a broken or fractured ankle can be like that of a sprain.

It is important to seek medical advice to determine if you have a broken ankle or a sprain. Depending on the extent of the fracture, recovery times could vary, but if the correct steps are taken, recovery could be more efficient and even take less time.

This guide will outline steps that could be taken to help aid and encourage a speedy recovery from a broken ankle. This guide will aim to provide you with as much information as you may need if you should experience a fractured or broken ankle, but should you need extra on hand support, contact us today.

If you would like to speak to an advisor from our expert team, call us today on the number at the bottom of this guide for more information.

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Overview – What Is A Broken Ankle

Generally speaking, a broken ankle is defined as any fracture to the bones that build up the structure of an ankle. A fracture can range in severity from a hairline fracture to a complete break of the ankle bone. The ankle joint is built of three main bones: the tibia, fibula and talus, and any fracture to these bones is considered a broken ankle.

The symptoms of a fractured ankle a person may experience include pain in the ankle, swelling, and/or bruising to the area. In addition to this, the joint could be stiff and hard to move, and it may be difficult to support the person’s body weight on it. In more severe cases, the ankle might be at an unnatural angle or bones can be either visible or protruding through the skin. The person’s toes could also be an odd colour or deep shades of purple, black or blue.

There are several main causes a broken ankle could result from. Among these are heavy impacts, such as jumping from a height, which could put high levels of strain on the tibia, fibula and talus bones and lead to a fracture. Other causes can be by twisting the ankle joint too far, pushing the bones beyond their range of motion, resulting in significant tendon damage and a fracture to the bone.

To diagnose if you have a broken ankle, an X-ray may be taken and from this point it can be decided whether surgery is required to aid in recovery.

It is important to note that some of the symptoms of a broken ankle are similar to that of a sprained ankle. It could be difficult to ascertain between an ankle break vs a sprain and in such cases an X-ray will be required to know for sure.

How Long Is The Recovery Time For A Broken Ankle?

The typical broken or fractured ankle recovery time can be entirely dependent on how serious the break is, but in most cases this can last between 6 to 12 weeks. What type of fracture is suffered is separated according to which bone is damaged in the injury. In this section, we will discuss the common types of ankle fractures in accordance with their estimated recovery times.

Lateral Malleolus Fracture

This type of fracture is the fibula only. A fractured or broken fibula of this type is referred to as a Lateral Malleolus Fracture and is the most common type of break. This break can take up to 6 weeks to recover without surgery, however the broken ankle recovery time after surgery can be up to 12 weeks in certain cases.

Medial Malleolus Fracture

A break of this kind is the tibia only. This fracture is not as common as the Lateral Malleolus fracture and occurs on the end of the tibia bone. This injury usually results in the bone being displaced and is usually treated with surgery. Depending on the success of the surgery, healing could take from 6 to 12 weeks.

Bimalleolar Ankle Fractures

These breaks involve both the fibula and tibia bones. This type of fracture leads to a completely unstable ankle joint and needs extra care and attention to ensure it heals in a perfect position. This break will generally require surgery to ensure effective healing and could from 3 to 4 months to heal properly.

Salter Harris

A fracture which includes talus fractures, these breaks sometimes occur with either the tibia or fibula. A break to the talus bone are varied and are classified into what is known as a Salter Harris fracture. There are nine types of Salter Harris Fracture, and each one refers to a break in a different part of the Talus bone, or a combination of a break in the talus, tibia and fibula bones. In this section, we will look at Types I to V and their implications on a person.

Salter Harris fractures are more common in children, and are ranked according to severity, ranging from Type I to Type V, with Type I being least severe. Medical professionals can use an X-ray to determine these types of fractures. Type I and II are usually treatable with non-surgical methods, whereas Types III to V would usually require surgery. A Type IV fracture is an intra-articular break which involves all three elements of the bone.

Finally, a Salter Harris Type V fracture is sometimes known as a fracture to the growth plate in children, but this a rare occurrence. The recovery times for this may vary between the severity of the break, but usually takes between 4 to 6 weeks to heal.

Treatment For A Broken Ankle – 5 Steps To Help Your Broken Ankle Recovery Time

The treatment for a fractured ankle can vary depending on the type of injury. This may range from simple at home remedies to serious medical intervention. Below are 5 of the most common broken ankle treatments.

ICE: Ice, Compression and Elevation

This type of treatment is used in the moments following the injury. It is usually advised for the patient to apply ice or perhaps a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel to the area. It is also recommended that the area gently wrapped in a bandage, and elevated until further treatment can be sought. In the case where a bone is protruding through the skin, or a wound is bleeding, it is usually recommended that the area is covered with a dressing until you receive medical assistance.

Surgery

If the damage to the ankle is extensive or more, surgical intervention may be required to stabilise the joint. It may be necessary for broken ankle surgery to allow doctors to reposition the bones, and if needed, secure them using pins and plates. In this case your doctor would advise you on steps to be taken following your surgery, which could include physiotherapy, further follow up appointments and more.

A Moon Boot, Plaster Cast or Immobilisation Tools

If surgery is not required, your doctor may require you to immobilise your ankle with a special boot, or fractured ankle cast, splint or brace. This can aid in reducing recovery time through the use of a moon boot and improve your broken ankle recover after the cast comes off.

Crutches

Crutches are used following an injury to help prevent walking on a broken ankle too soon. They are usually used in conjunction with a moon boot or plaster cast to making moving around more comfortable. There are several different types of crutches to choose from, depending on your personal needs, such as traditional crutches, a knee scooter or a hands free knee scooter.

Reduction

Sometimes an injury can result in both a fractured and a dislocated ankle. In this case the bones have moved out of place and need to be manually realigned. If this happens, your doctor may need to perform a non-surgical procedure known as closed reduction. During this procedure, your doctor will give you pain relief, and numb the area entirely, to help reduce pain.

Pain Management

A broken ankle can be very painful, no matter how serious the injury. However, you don’t need to suffer through it and there are many steps you can take to make the pain more manageable.

To help prevent broken ankle pain getting worse, there are things you can do at home as well as with the advice of your doctor. These include simple steps such as regularly elevating your ankle and avoiding walking on your broken ankle too soon. It is usually recommended that you take paracetamol or ibuprofen and regularly use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to help aid the reduction of swelling. To aid in the healing process, if your ankle is not immobilised, it is also recommended that you do gentle rotating exercises to help prevent stiffness. A brace that provides good compression and reduces swelling could also significantly reduce pain.

Elevation

Following a fracture or break, a common symptom can be excessive swelling on the site of the break. Swelling, or edema, occurs in the area of the break and can be controlled through realigning the bone, and applying correct compression, as well as elevation. By controlling the swelling, you could aid your broken ankle and speed up the overall recovery time.

Elevation can also play an essential part in preventing your broken ankle from swelling and how long it may take to recover. When elevating your ankle, try to keep it level with your heart, as this allows for a more even blood flow to your foot, which aids in reducing swelling and pain. Taking time to elevate your ankle will also reduce the amount of time you spend putting weight on it. With a fractured or broken ankle, it is essential that continuous or excessive movement is greatly reduced to help prevent further injury.

Crutches For A Broken Ankle

Crutches For Broken Ankle

Close up of man walking with broken ankle on crutches and cast

If your doctor decides that crutches are necessary to aid the healing of your fractured ankle, there are three main types to choose from. Each type has different features, and you should choose the ones that are most appropriate for your lifestyle or needs.

The first are traditional hand-held crutches, which allow you to avoiding putting weight on your injured ankle. These crutches are more affordable, easier to set aside when needed and are relatively lightweight. However, they have limitations, as they require the use of both hands in order to use them correctly. These crutches can sometimes e challenge for those who don’t possess a lot of upper body strength and can tire you out easily.

The second option is a knee scooter, which allows for partial elevation of your ankle, while allowing for the use of your hands when needed. The scooter also doesn’t require much upper body strength and is more useful for those who will be upright for long periods of time. Some limitations to this type are that it is bulky, hard to move over uneven surfaces and requires both hands when moving.

The third option is a hands-free knee crutch that secures to your leg and acts as a stilt as you walk. It does not require you to use you hands to operate, but instead, you must kneel on the pad, and strap the upper and lower part of you leg to the structure. Some limitations with this type are that movement is limited on stairs, it takes time to become accustomed to using it and there are no handheld supports to lean on if the wearer loses balance.

Each type is different and you should choose according to the type that fits your needs best.

Physiotherapy Broken Ankle

Depending on the type of injury, your foot may have been immobilised for many weeks. This can lead to the muscles and tendons losing strength and becoming stiff. Extra help is sometimes needed to bring those muscles and tendons back into good health and this comes in the form of physiotherapy. Your doctor will usually recommend physiotherapy following the removal of any casts, or after the appropriate amount of healing time has passed. A doctor will be able to identify if you need physiotherapy in your follow up appointments and will direct you according the best possible plan for your recovery.

In trying to heal your broken ankle, physical therapy allows for the effective rehabilitation of the bones, tendons and muscles that make up your ankle joint. You can complete physical therapy at home with the guidance of a qualified physical therapist, which could help you down the path to your most effective and speedy recovery. Physiotherapy can help prevent broken ankle pain returning years later and ensure that it heals in the most efficient way.

Call us today on the number at the bottom of this guide to find out in minutes if you qualify for free physiotherapy through our services and get you back on your feet, sooner rather than later.

Ankle Support

If you don’t need the support of a moon boot, cast or splint, you could use an ankle support or brace to help aid you fractured ankle recovery. There are many Fractured ankle braces to choose from, and each has a different purpose. In choosing you ankle support you should consider the following aspects:

Is it stable?

Does the brace provide a strong enough stabilisation to prevent excessive movement? It is essential that mobility is reduced as your ankle continues to heal.

Does it fit well?

If the brace is not a good fit, it can impact on the stability, as well as make you vulnerable to pressure points and sore from friction as your foot moves around inside it.

Does it provide suitable compression?

Compression is essential in reducing swelling and pain, and improving the blood flow to the area. This aspect is also linked to stability and getting the right fit, as uncontrolled swelling can impact both.

Is it adjustable?

An adjustable brace will allow you to change the sizing of the brace to better fit your needs. An adjustable brace allows you to ensure good stability, a snug fit, and effective compression.

Is it breathable?

Is the brace made of a material that allows air to pass through effectively? This will help reduce sweating, and the associated issues it could bring. Such as sores, slipping and unpleasant odours.

Is it good quality?

If the brace is made of good material and craftsmanship, it is less likely to fail, and will help ensure all the above aspects are satisfied. The better the quality is, the faster and more effective your recovery could be.

Exercises For A Broken Ankle

Once you cast or moon boot has been removed, there are many Broken ankle exercises you could do to assist your rehabilitation and recovery. It is difficult to know how soon to start walking after a broken ankle,

At the beginning of the recovery period, these exercises will start gentle. However, as your ankle becomes stronger, they may be more demanding as your ankle heals. It is advised to follow your doctor’s advice with regards to physiotherapy, but in the meantime, all the following exercises could be completed safely at home.

In the early stages, exercises are limited slow measured rotations and forwards and backward movements. These exercises use controlled pressure on the joint, and instead focus on loosening the tendons and muscles that surround the ankle.

Some example exercises at this stage include:

  • While sitting or lying down, have your ankles raised and moving your feet backwards and forwards to bend and straighten your ankles.
  • While in the same position, rotate your ankles in large circles, rotating clockwise and anti-clockwise.
  • While sitting on a chair, place both feet on the ground, and left up flexing your calves but keeping your toes on the floor. Repeat this, lifting up and slowly lowering down.

After some time, and your ankle is load bearing, you could begin to implement exercises that introduce more weight and more specific movements to continue to build the strength of the joint as it heals. Some example exercises at this point include:

  • Sitting on a chair, with both feet on the ground, place your uninjured foot on top of the recovering foot, and try to lift the foot underneath. Use your top foot to prevent the lower foot from moving and provide something to push against. Repeat the movement by lifting up and down gently.
  • While sitting on the floor, attach a rubber exercise band to something solid, and hook it onto the toes of your injured foot. Move back far enough to create enough tension and begin to bend and straighten your ankle.
  • Sitting in a chair, cross you feet to press the outside of both feet together. Then press your feet together tightly and hold for 10 seconds.

Self-Care To Do At Home

Once you have returned home from receiving medical care, it falls to you to take care of your fractured ankle, and ensure you have the most successful and speedy recovery. There are several measures you can take at home to make your road to recovery a smooth and less painful journey.

The first is ensuring you follow your doctors’ instructions, with regards to taking medication, doing exercises and attending follow up appointments. Alongside that, you should follow the recovery tips outlined above. These include regular elevation, reducing the amount of time you spend on the ankle, and using the correct equipment to aid in your mobility. It is also important to try and maintain the quality of your moon boot or cast, as well as a brace, should you be using one.

Other self-care tips include keeping an eye on your ankle, and noting any unusual changes, should you see some. These include discoloured toes in a cast, a significant increase in pain or swelling or any odours from inside a cast or boot. Should you notice any of these you should seek medical advice immediately.

Follow-Ups For Fractured Ankle Recovery

Follow up appointments depend on the severity of the fracture, and whether surgery was required to re-set the bones. In any case, a follow up appointment will usually entail the doctor conducting tests to determine if the fracture has healed correctly.

These tests can include an X-ray, and MRI or a CT scan to see the bone in detail. The doctor may also ask you to do some movements to examine your ankle’s range of motion and whether you’re still experiencing pain. The doctor may also perform a physical examination to ensure everything has set right. It would be at this point that your doctor could recommend physiotherapy to further help you towards a full recovery.

Contact Us For Free Medical Care For A Fractured Ankle

If you have suffered from a fractured ankle, you could qualify for free medical care in you area with one of our experts. This could be confirmed within a matter of minutes by an expert from our team of advisors. For more information, contact The Health Experts today by clicking here or call us on 020 3870 4868.

Additional Information

For additional information and more Broken ankle recovery tips see these useful links below:

Fractured Ankle Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment, Recovery
What are the common causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments for a fractured ankle?

The Health Experts
For information on other types of fractures and injury recovery times, take a look at our website.

How Do I Know If I’ve Broken A Bone?
Advice from the NHS about the common signs of a broken bone.

NHS Broken Ankle
Get medical advice as soon as possible from the NHS if you think you have broken your ankle.