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How To Stop Limping After Broken Ankle

by Lyndon Langley
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How To Stop Limping After Broken Ankle

How To Stop Limping After Broken Ankle

It was just another day on the job when I got an email from my doctor asking if I had any news about my broken ankle. “Nothing,” I replied. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I found out why – it hadn’t been set properly after surgery! In case you have never broken your ankle before, here’s how it works…
Broken ankles are some of the most common injuries seen by orthopedic surgeons. Approximately 2 million people suffer an injury every year, resulting in more than 500,000 hospital admissions, according to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. The majority of these injuries happen between the ages of 18-45. Men are affected more often than women, probably because they tend to play contact sports like football and basketball more frequently. About half of all broken ankles occur among people who do not wear shoes or athletic socks. Of those, almost 90% are over age 45.
Although this sounds terrible, it’s actually pretty good compared to what used to be the case 50 years ago. Back then, only 1/3rd of patients under 65 were able to return to work within six months following their injury. Today though, thanks to advances in technology and medicine, nearly 70% can go back to work and 80% can walk normally again within 12 months.
The first step toward recovery is rest. Take as much time off from work as possible. Stay home from school or work if necessary. You may need crutches or a cane, depending upon your specific injury. Don’t put too much pressure on your foot during the healing process, which usually takes at least 3 months. Also, avoid putting weight on the injured leg unless absolutely necessary. This will keep unnecessary stress off the joints and muscles.
Now that we’ve covered resting, let’s talk about strengthening exercises. As long as you’re getting enough sleep and avoiding strenuous activity, exercise won’t cause additional damage. But make sure you choose movements that focus on the unaffected side of your body, such as walking with a slight gait. Walking with a limp might seem okay initially, but eventually you’ll get tired faster and even start limping yourself.
Here are some other tips:
Wear proper footwear. Shoes and socks should provide plenty of support while allowing full range of motion for your toes and feet. They must also fit well so that any added pressure does not force the bone into an unnatural position.
Avoid bending your knee slightly inward (toward the center of your body) at the point where the thigh meets the shinbone. Doing so places extra strain on the joint.
Be careful twisting and turning. Don’t roll onto your stomach unless absolutely necessary.
If you do experience any discomfort, stop immediately. Pain signals from a damaged area indicate serious problems requiring immediate treatment.
Don’t ignore symptoms. When in doubt, consult a physician promptly.
When you feel better, slowly increase your mobility and physical activities. Your bones and ligaments will gradually adapt to the new movement patterns.
With the right care, most broken ankles heal quickly and completely. However, sometimes complications arise. Unfortunately, many people wait too long before seeking professional help, thus delaying treatment and increasing the risk of permanent disability. Here are a few signs to watch out for:
– Swelling around the ankle joint
– Joint stiffness
– A change in color or texture of skin near the ankle
– Decreased ability to use the affected leg
– Loss of sensation
– Weakness of the supporting tissues
– Cramps in the calf muscle
– Difficulty moving the toes
– Swelling in other areas, especially below the knee
– Tenderness of internal structures, such as the Achilles tendon
– Numbness or loss of feeling in the lower part of the foot or the calf
– Stiffness of the ankle accompanied by redness or warmth
– Leg length discrepancy due to unequal growth of the tibia and fibula bones.
Seek medical attention immediately when you notice any of these warning signs.
In severe cases, the bone may shift or break entirely through the skin. Such infections require prompt antibiotic therapy. Fractures involving multiple parts of the foot or ankle, especially those extending down to the toe, can lead to deformity. Surgery may be required to repair or realign the bones.
Most fractures involve the distal end of the tibia, called the medial malleolus. These breaks typically occur in young adults who participate in vigorous athletics. Most of them occur in men. Women are less likely to fracture their medial malleoli because they don’t engage in intense sport.
Fracture dislocations are uncommon. The bones involved move relative to each other, rather than remaining fixed in place. Dislocations are caused mainly by high energy trauma. People who fall from great heights or slip off ladders are particularly susceptible.
Because of its severity, dislocation requires surgical treatment. The surgeon may reattach the fractured ends using pins or screws, or he may replace the entire bone with metal prosthesis. Surgeons also perform reconstructive surgeries that restore normal alignment and function.
Surgery is recommended for severely displaced fractures in which the bones cannot be reduced back into alignment. Fixation devices, such as external fixators, may be used to hold the fragments together temporarily while the bones heal.
Dislocation is defined as separation of one bone from another by more than 5 millimeters. The bone fragments remain attached only by soft tissue. Although rare, certain types of dislocation can result in amputation of the limb.
What causes dislocation?
Mechanical factors.
Congenital abnormalities.
Rheumatoid arthritis.
Gouty arthritis.
Diabetes mellitus.
Paget’s disease.
Sickle cell disease.
Bone diseases.
Limb lengthening osteotomy.
Certain medications.
Exposure to ionizing radiation.
How to diagnose a dislocated ankle?
Patients with suspected dislocation undergo radiographic examination. Plain X-ray film reveals whether the bones are still connected. Computed tomography scans (CT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and arthrography are done to determine the extent of the injury and identify associated injuries. Arthrography involves injecting dye directly into the joint to visualize blood flow. Ultrasound scanning provides information about fluid buildup and muscle edema.
Isolated lateral ankle instability refers to excessive sideways motion of the ankle. Lateral ankle instability occurs in about 10 percent of the population; however, up to 40 percent of runners may have mild forms of this condition. The term describes a group of conditions characterized by chronic recurrent sprains and microtrauma. Overuse of the ankle joint leads to tears of the ligamentous apparatus, including the anterior talofibular ligament, posterior talofibular ligament, and calcaneofibular ligament. Tears of the interosseous membrane, along with degenerative changes, also contribute to laxity. The ankle becomes unstable as the components of the syndesmosis become separated. Subtalar joint arthritis or hypoplasia, flatfoot deformities, neuromuscular dysfunction, and postural defects also affect stability.
Some individuals with lateral ankle instability report difficulty controlling the motion of the ankle and subtalar joint. Excessive pronation and supination, valgus and varus, and increased eversion and inversion are commonly observed. The patient feels constant irritation in the ankle region. He or she reports sudden episodes of giving way, falling forward, or losing balance. Patients complain of pain and tenderness in the ankle, especially with standing and running. Symptoms worsen with prolonged standing, squatting, stair climbing, and jumping. Mild instability may improve with stretching, bracing, heel lift, self-myofascial release, and anti-inflammatory medication. More significant instability needs surgical intervention.
Plain films show widening of the saggittal distance between the upper and lower surfaces of the talus. CT scan shows widening of the articular surface of the talocrural joint. MRI shows thickening and irregularity of the articular cartilage.
Physical exam includes inspection of the general health and special features of the foot. Palpate bony prominence and depressions to detect abnormal shape or tender spots. Check overall strength and reflexes. Test range of motion, sensory perception, and motor control. Inspect for scars, calluses, wounds, and foreign bodies. Assess shoe size and type. Evaluate for swelling, deformity, contractures, and restricted mobility. Perform straight leg testing to evaluate muscular imbalance. Palpate deep fascia and check pulses. Listen to hear heart beat and lungs sound.

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