Broken Ankle Pain Getting Worse
If you have ever been injured in an accident, you know that even minor injuries can result in long-term problems. Broken bones are common, but so are broken ankles. A fractured ankle (or any bone) may be stable enough to support your weight, but it’s not going to heal without medical attention. Just like a broken arm needs surgery to set a proper fracture, a broken ankle needs surgery to fix a dislocation. In addition, a fractured bone doesn’t just need a cast; it also needs specialized care from a trained orthopedic surgeon. It takes special skill to deal with a broken ankle.
A broken ankle isn’t necessarily something to fear. Most of us will break our legs at some point, and most of us will experience sprains and strains as well. But unlike fractures, dislocations, and other serious injuries, a broken ankle usually heals on its own. The problem comes when the pain gets bad enough that it prevents you from moving around normally. If you’re having trouble getting around, see a doctor. While you might be able to treat yourself for a few days until the pain eases, there are times when you should seek professional help. Here’s what to do if your broken ankle hurts too much to ignore.
Is There Deformity?
First things first — does your broken ankle cause a deformity? This means that one part of your foot or leg is longer than another. For example, maybe your big toe is bent downward more than the others. Or perhaps you’ve developed an infection because the wound didn’t close properly after a fall. These are all signs of a deformed joint. Dislocations are common in the hip, knee, and shoulder, among others. However, they can occur anywhere that joints meet bones. So, even if you think you only hurt your ankle, make sure to ask about whether there is a deformity associated with your broken bone.
Are You Suffering With Swelling?
Second, does the pain interfere with daily life? If you can walk around fine, then you probably won’t need to see a physician. On the other hand, if you can’t bear your weight on your injured limb and you notice fluid buildup on the skin, you’ll want a physical examination by a health provider who specializes in musculoskeletal conditions. Don’t try to drain the fluid yourself unless you have specific training in this area. Your doctor will determine the extent of the damage.
Have You Had An X-Ray?
Third, do you need an x-ray? If you feel a pop in your ankle while playing sports, you could go straight to a hospital emergency room and request an x-ray. However, if you just fell down, the initial assessment might not include an x-ray. An x-ray is necessary for evaluating a dislocated bone. Without one, doctors aren’t able to tell how badly your joint has moved out of place. They can’t prescribe treatment or perform surgery until they know exactly where the joint is located. An x-ray provides information about alignment and bony fragments inside the joint. It also lets your doctor know about any existing arthritis, which can affect recovery time.
Do You Need Surgery?
Fourth, do you need surgery? Not every broken bone requires surgery. Many bones require screws or pins instead. If your fracture is stabilized with these devices, you can avoid surgery altogether. However, if you suffer from a dislocation, or if internal fixation isn’t possible, you should consider undergoing surgical repair. Surgery may involve placing metal plates and screws into the affected areas, or using wire mesh to hold them together.
Can You Walk Around Normally Again?
Fifth, can you walk around normally again? After a certain period of healing, you should be able to return to full activity. Some people choose to take a brief rest during that time, but many patients resume their normal routines sooner. Physical therapists can help you regain strength and mobility once you start practicing again. You might find that the best way to recover is to work closely with a therapist, especially if you have a hard time sitting still.
What Are You Doing To Heal?
Sixth, what are you doing to aid in recovery? Doctors often recommend ice packs, compression wraps, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling. Ask your healthcare provider about these options, and share your preferences. He or she can let you know which ones are appropriate for your condition and lifestyle.
Seventh, are you taking prescription medications? Certain over-the-counter medications can aggravate inflammation and pain. Discuss alternative treatments with your doctor before beginning any new medication regimen. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen, and steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as prednisolone, hydrocortisone, and methylprednisolone, can increase bleeding risk. Ibuprofen and aspirin shouldn’t be taken within two hours of each other. If you are scheduled to undergo surgery, talk to your surgeon about taking NSAIDS beforehand.
Eighth, are you sleeping right? Sleeping through the night on your side helps keep pressure off your injured leg. Lying flat on your back can put undue stress on your spine. You should sleep under a regular blanket, rather than a foam wedge, since foam wedges can shift or compress your body. Try elevating your bed above the level of your heart to improve circulation and relieve swelling. Lastly, wear loose fitting clothing to prevent constriction of blood vessels.
Ninth, are you eating healthy? Eating nutritious food helps boost your immune system and fight infections. Make sure you eat plenty of protein and calcium to rebuild muscle tissue. Avoid junk foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. Drinking water throughout the day keeps you hydrated and can assist with digestion. And finally, exercise regularly to strengthen muscles and promote good cardiovascular health.
Tenth, are you mentally prepared? Sometimes we worry too much about an injury. We fear being unable to move around, get up and down easily, and do everyday tasks. When nothing further happens, we become discouraged and stop trying to heal ourselves. Instead, focus on positive thoughts and activities. Keep a gratitude journal to remind yourself of everything you already have in your life. Take pride in your accomplishments, including small steps toward recovery.
With a little luck and careful follow-up, you should begin feeling better soon. If your ankle continues to swell or you develop severe pain, however, call your family doctor. She can refer you to a specialist who understands the unique challenges of dealing with ankle issues.
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