There was a recurring bit in the classic Looney Tunes cartoons where a black female cat would accidently end up with a white stripe running along the middle of her back. A hopelessly romantic skunk, Pepe Le Pew, would fruitlessly pursue the feline, much to her annoyance. In spite of her irritation, Pepe would continue his efforts in vain, to comic effect. Well, the moral of our story is that there are certainly times when it is essential to accurately distinguish between two similar, yet rather different, things. This is the case for sprained and broken ankles.
The two conditions are often misunderstood as being the other because they have common symptoms and can result from similar injuries. Both sprains and fractures can happen when an ankle is placed under excessive stress at an unnatural angle. An example of this is a misplaced step. It is rather common to land awkwardly on the outside edge of the foot, which can either overstretch ligaments or cause a break in the bottom end of the fibula. Each often leads to pain and swelling in the ankle, but they are different injuries.
When the ligaments are excessively stretched, the condition you are experiencing is an ankle sprain. The joints in the ankle are rather complex and made of numerous connective tissue that can become sprained due to abnormal motion (rolling, twisting). If you can place weight upon the affected foot, it is likely that this is the injury you have sustained.
When you have a broken ankle, it means that one of the bones—although often the bottom end of the fibula—has become fractured. Sometimes these breaks happen as the result of a single, traumatic event (like an accident). Other times, overuse results in the development of a stress fracture – a tiny crack formed by the cumulative force of repetitive action. This injury is often more painful than a sprain and you will experience difficulty putting weight on the affected ankle and especially with walking.
No matter which condition you have sustained, you can receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for sprained and broken ankles here at Associates in Podiatry. If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, call our Princeton office at (609) 924-8333 or our Roselle Park office at (908) 687-5757. You can also request your appointment with us through our online form.