Broken Ankle Swelling How Long
When you break a bone, it’s natural that the pain, swelling and bruising from all of the associated trauma will make you want to lie around in bed until they go away. But while this may seem like the best way to rest your injury, it isn’t. In fact, studies have shown that staying active as soon as possible after breaking any kind of bone increases mobility, strength and speed at the same time. And if you’re someone who likes to be outside and get active anyway, even an activity as simple as walking can help keep those bones strong.
The type of bone that’s most likely to break is the tibia (shinbone), which is also the largest bone in the body. The average woman has about 2,200 millimeters (8 feet) of height and more than 3 meters (10 feet) of weight on her legs alone; men are generally taller and heavier than women. With such significant amounts of mass resting on top of these small bones, it makes sense that if we fall down and land awkwardly, our shinbones will experience some serious damage. As a result, breaks to the lower part of the shinbone are relatively common, with approximately 20 percent of people between ages 18-34 having suffered a broken tibia.
What happens when a person sustains a break to their shinbone? When a bone ends up fractured, its end undergoes two types of healing processes: primary and secondary. Primary healing involves regrowth of soft tissue, cartilage and bone itself. During this process, blood flow is increased by the formation of new capillaries, which allows nutrients to reach the injured area faster. Also, during primary healing, the body produces scar tissue, which helps hold the pieces together better. Secondary healing refers to the process where the skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons heal over the fracture site. With this type of healing, patients’ physical therapists use compression bandages, ice packs and electrical stimulation devices to reduce pain and inflammation.
While it’s important to take care of the broken bone, it’s also critical to understand how long it takes for swelling to subside after a bone fractures. If you’ve ever had a swollen ankle or wrist, then you know just how uncomfortable it can feel to wear tight clothing or put too much pressure on the affected area. After breaking a bone, however, swelling is often unavoidable because the process of healing requires extra fluid buildup in the surrounding tissues. It’s estimated that about 80 percent of people will experience some degree of post-fracture swelling, but it should only last three months, and it should decrease dramatically once the bones start repairing themselves [sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD].
In addition to swelling, other symptoms of a broken bone include tenderness, stiffness, joint instability (such as popping out of place), numbness, redness and loss of range of motion. Painkillers including acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen can relieve temporary swelling, but prolonged use could cause liver problems. For severe cases, doctors prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include prescription medications such as Voltaren, Celebrex and Naprosyn. However, NSAIDs should be used carefully because they increase bleeding risks and gastrointestinal issues if taken longer than necessary.
If you’ve recently experienced a broken bone, knowing how long it typically takes to heal can help ease your mind and allow you to focus more energy toward getting back into shape. Here are some tips to follow when it comes to dealing with swelling.
After a bone heals, it needs time to adapt to its surroundings properly. Before returning to sports or daily activities, experts recommend waiting about four weeks before jumping right back into strenuous exercise. During this period, the bone should have fully healed enough to withstand stress without causing additional injuries. Also, patients should check with their doctor first before participating in contact sports, especially boxing matches.
During the initial stages of recovery, patients need to stay off of their feet entirely. However, many people find themselves itching to return to the gym, run errands or simply walk around the block. If you do decide to move, try taking short walks rather than striding across town. Walking upright puts excessive strain on the joints, so instead of trying to cover ground quickly, slow down and enjoy the scenery. You’ll also want to avoid high heels, boots and shoes with pointed toes. If you do choose to wear them, make sure that your footwear fits comfortably and supports the arch of your foot. If you already wear orthotics, consider switching to sneakers since they provide support without adding excess pressure points on the bottom of your foot.
Wear Loose Clothing
As mentioned earlier, swelling occurs when fluids accumulate under the skin. Therefore, wearing looser clothes that aren’t constricting will help promote the movement of fluid throughout the body. Wearing baggy pants or shorts also lets the leg breathe, allowing the skin to relax. Additionally, loose items allow for easier access to the bathroom, so don’t forget to wear comfortable underwear!
Take Extra Care Around Broken Bones
It’s understandable that pain is sometimes worse near an accident site, but it’s easy to injure yourself further by ignoring minor cuts, scrapes and bruises. Don’t ignore or push through pain. Instead, treat minor wounds immediately with antiseptic ointments or antibacterial wipes. If you suspect infection, seek medical attention immediately because untreated infections can lead to life threatening complications.
For minor bumps, sprains and fractures, cold compresses are effective ways to calm soreness and prevent swelling. Simply fill a sink full of water and pour in crushed ice cubes to create a makeshift compress. Apply the icy cloth to the bump directly below the skin and leave it in place for several minutes. Although cold temperatures work well for reducing swelling, heat works equally as effectively. To apply a hot pack, boil water in a kettle or microwave and wrap a towel around it to retain warmth. Then, soak a clean washcloth in the heated water to warm your skin and provide relief.
Avoid Activities That Increase Swelling
Certain activities can aggravate existing conditions such as arthritis or circulation disorders. For example, swimming has been linked to osteonecrosis, a painful condition caused by damaged blood vessels that leads to bone death. Other causes of swelling include alcohol consumption, standing for long periods of time and smoking cigarettes. So if you suffer from any of these ailments, limit your activity level and monitor your symptoms closely.
Learn More About Bone Health
Bone health is essential for healthy living, and bone fractures can be very traumatic experiences. Fortunately, bone breaks usually heal within a few days or weeks, and proper rehabilitation and treatment can restore function and improve quality of life. While the exact mechanisms behind bone growth are complex, bone density plays a major role. Bone mineral density begins decreasing early in adulthood, leading to higher chances of bone fractures later in life. By maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, adults can slow down bone loss and protect against future fractures.
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