Physiotherapy for Broken Ankle: What to Expect
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
A broken or fractured ankle is a common injury when one or three ankle bones break and cause pain and discomfort.
Often the symptoms of a broken ankle are very similar to the symptoms of an ankle sprain. An untreated broken ankle and misaligned healing of the bones can lead to arthritis and other conditions in the future. That's why it's essential to see a doctor to diagnose and create an individual treatment plan.
One of the most successful ways to ensure the best healing outcome and return to everyday life and sport activity is physiotherapy for a broken ankle.
What Is Broken Ankle?
What is a broken ankle, and how does the injury happen? In short, a broken or fractured ankle is an injury to the bone that can occur as simply as falling or misstepping or as traumatically as being in a car crash or other type of accident.
Fractures can occur for one or all three ankle bones - the tibia, the fibula, and the talus.
The broken ankle fractures can vary from tiny cracks to massive visible open bone breaks as they pierce the skin.
How Does It Occur?
Many broken ankle bone injuries happen simultaneously with ankle sprains and torn ligaments when the ankle becomes twisted, turned, or rolled.
Besides a traumatic event or fall, sports activities involving running, walking, and falling are also a common cause of a broken ankle.
The treatment and physiotherapy for a broken ankle depend on the severity of the fracture and can vary. It might be enough to keep it stable while it heals, but some breaks will require implants like screws and rods to encourage healing and maintain the stability of the leg.
What Are The Symptoms?
How do you know if you have a broken ankle if you fall or were in an accident?
The most common symptoms include:
Throbbing pain, bruising, swelling
Tenderness, difficulty, or pain bearing weight
Deformity of the area
Deformities are one of the most apparent signs of a fracture, but you should see a doctor even if there are no visible skin tears or bones and you only experience other symptoms.
Broken Ankle Risk Factors
High-impact sports such as football, soccer, tennis, basketball, etc., can cause blows and twists of the ankle. It gets especially dangerous if you're not wearing proper shoes, don't warm up before the activities, and are not careful.
Sudden changes in activity level can also put stress and pressure on your ankles. E.g., if you've gone from exercising from once-twice a week to daily or have started a physically strenuous job.
Clutter and poor-lit home and office may sound like a silly reason, but many people trip and fall in such environments and experience ankle breaks too.
If you have certain health conditions like osteoporosis that cause the bone density to decrease, you are more vulnerable to such injuries and should be careful about your activities.
How Do Doctors Diagnose a Broken Ankle?
Often broken and sprained ankle injuries have the same symptoms. Once you see a doctor, they will take you to get X-rays done to determine whether you indeed have a fractured ankle, broken bone, or is it a soft-tissue injury.
They might also get a CT or MRI done to get more details of the injury.
If the injury is severe, you might receive a consultation from an orthopedic surgeon to determine whether you need surgery.
Physiotherapy for Broken Ankle. What to Expect?
Your broken ankle will be treaded depending on the severity of the injury.
You want your bones to heal as perfectly as possible because any instability or misalignment can cause arthritis later in life.
In case of severe injuries, you'll get surgery. Check here what to do for post-surgery of physical therapy rehabilitation.
For other cases, you're most likely to be treated with a leg cast, splint, or a walking boot. You might also need crutches, but patients can walk immediately in some cases.
It usually takes about six weeks for bones to heal, but more time is needed in more complicated cases. It may take longer for ligaments or other soft tissues to heal as well.
For the first couple of weeks, patients are in a splint, later the sutures are removed, and patients are usually given a removable boot.
In six weeks, the doctor will review new X-rays, and usually, at this point, physiotherapy for a broken ankle begins.
First Assessment and Physiotherapy For Broken Ankle
Firstly the PT will assess your gait and see how you walk after the injury, e.g., are you limping, etc., your strength (because you may have lost some being immobile for weeks), your pain levels, and range of motion.
Once they've finished the assessment, they will be able to create an individual treatment plan. Click here to find the differences between physical therapy and physiotherapy to see which one most adequate to your situation.
Because patients are usually not allowed to put any weight on the ankle for at least six weeks, your physical therapist will teach you how to walk with crutches or a walker, including taking the stairs.
After the bone is healed, you and your physical therapist will start working on gaining back your strength, motion, and balance. Full recovery and return to usual activities generally happen 12 to 16 weeks after an ankle fracture.
You will work on:
Walking instruction. Your therapist will teach you how to put weight on the injured leg gradually, so you progress but avoid additional injuries.
Swelling reduction. Because there's usually swelling, your physical therapist will use such modalities as heat, ice, or wrapping to reduce it.
During gait training, your therapist will teach you exercises to restore your normal walking pattern.
Restoring ankle mobility is one of the goals of physiotherapy for a broken ankle, and the physical therapist might use hands-on therapy modalities such as massage to increase it and reduce stiffness.
Exercises. You'll get an individual exercise plan to strengthen and regain motion in your injured ankle.
Broken ankle physiotherapy exercises include the range of motion, flexibility, strength, balance, and proprioception, and plyometric exercises.
A broken ankle is a common injury that takes a minimum of 6 weeks to heal. The treatment included wearing a cast, splint, or a walking boot to keep the ankle stable and ensure proper healing.
Physiotherapy for the broken ankle is one of the essential parts of healing and getting back to everyday life and your regular activities.
Your physical therapist will create an individual recovery plan that will include modalities for regaining strength, balance, reducing pain, swelling and increasing range of motion. Contact Miracle Rehab Clinic to book your appointment.