What Does A Fractured Ankle Feel Like
I have had two broken ankles, one in college and one while running a marathon. Both were painful experiences. I remember my college fracture so clearly because it was during a weeklong trip home with friends on our way to visit colleges across the country. We stopped at a Denny’s near Reno, Nevada for breakfast before heading off on our journey. While sitting around a booth talking about school plans, someone ordered pancakes from the menu. My friend who didn’t eat much food asked if there were any leftovers, which is when I decided to take a bite of his leftover pancake. The moment he took a bite, he realized what had happened and started screaming bloody murder. It turns out the entire plate of pancakes was filled with jagged pieces of metal – sharp enough to cut through skin and bone. Needless to say, we all ran away as fast as possible.
The second incident occurred while training for a half-marathon in New York City. During mile 8 I felt something snap in my foot. At first I thought maybe I just stepped on glass or tile, but then I noticed blood coming from between my toes. I tried to put pressure on it, but nothing worked. Ultimately I was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital where x-rays revealed that I had sustained a displaced mid-tarsal fracture. Once again, my doctor told me that I would need surgery, which I did not want since I wasn’t trained to perform open surgeries. Luckily, another patient who went to the same surgeon gave him permission to operate on his injured ankle without his consent, allowing my doctor to save my life. When I woke up from anesthesia, I couldn’t believe how little damage they did to my foot compared to what it looked like earlier that day.
If you’ve never experienced a fractured ankle yourself, you might wonder what exactly does one feel like? There are some signs to look out for, however, that indicate your ankle may be fractured, including: moderate-to-severe pain; ankle swelling; tenderness; limited range of motion; bruising; deformities such as disfigurement; and, popping noises when moving your wrist or fingers. If you experience these symptoms, you should go see your doctor right away.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with a fractured ankle, your physician will likely recommend physical therapy and/or rest depending on the severity of your fracture. However, no matter whether you choose to seek medical attention yourself or your doctor recommends you do so, the first thing you’ll probably notice is extreme discomfort followed by severe pain. This initial phase can last anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks. After this period passes, you may notice the following symptoms:
While the above list describes the general symptoms of a fractured ankle, everyone reacts differently to injuries. For example, different people heal faster than others. Your recovery time also depends on many factors such as the type of bones involved, age, health, activity level, etc. In addition, other conditions such as arthritis or diabetes can affect healing times and must be considered.
You’re now probably wondering how long it will take to recover from a fractured ankle. Typically, most patients begin their recuperative process within 3 months. As mentioned previously, the length of your recovery time will depend largely on how quickly your body heals. You should expect to spend approximately 2-3 months in rehabilitation and 6-8 weeks resting once you return to full activities. Since each person has different bodies, everyone will respond to treatment differently. Some patients tend to get better quicker than others, though. So don’t despair! Keep in mind that it’s normal to experience setbacks along the way and always consult a healthcare professional if your condition worsens.
Finally, let’s talk about what happens after you leave the hospital. Most patients receive instructions regarding proper care for themselves at home. These include things such as: taking prescribed medications; wearing a splint; elevating the injured leg above hip level; bracing the affected area; using crutches; ice packs; compression stockings; and, physical therapy. Follow these guidelines carefully to ensure a speedy recovery.
So far we’ve discussed what a fractured ankle feels like, why doctors prescribe such lengthy amounts of time for recovery, and what you should do after leaving the hospital. Now you know more than ever about the serious nature of this injury and what to do next. Take good care of yourself and stay safe.
Grossman J et al. (2013). Ankle fractures among older adults: epidemiology, natural history, and outcomes. Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery American Volume 94(7): 721-728.
Bates T et al. (2003). Epidemiology of ankle trauma in children. Traumatology 13(2): 123-129.
Konstantopoulos N et al. (2012). Knee Arthroscopy Techniques: Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Sports Injuries. Springer International Publishing Switzerland.
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