Broken Ankle: Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery

Broken Ankle: Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery | UPMC Italy

Ankle injuries are common and can occur during sports activities, at home or during daily routines. A fractured ankle is a partial or complete break of one or more bones in the joint. These injuries often occur during physical activities such as running and jumping, but can also be caused by falls, trips or car accidents. Although the severity can vary, most ankle injuries are treatable.


If an ankle fracture is suspected, an immediate medical examination is essential. Ankle fractures can easily be confused with sprains or strains. A medical specialist can determine the exact cause of the swelling, bruising and pain.

Symptoms of a broken ankle include:

  • Immediate pain after the injury.
  • Swelling, bruising and, in some cases, visible deformity.
  • Difficulty walking, bearing weight or wearing shoes.
  • Pain or tenderness when moving the ankle.

It is essential to assess the ankle if symptoms persist despite taking anti-inflammatory drugs or taking measures such as rest, ice, compression and elevation. An orthopaedic specialist will perform a physical examination and, if necessary, request an X-ray to better assess the injury.

Treatment of a broken ankle

After diagnosis, the orthopaedist will develop a personalised treatment plan based on the type of fracture and the patient's needs, deciding whether surgery is necessary.

Stable fractures

Stable fractures, in which the broken bones remain aligned with each other and are just out of place, are usually treated without surgery and with immobilisation. The doctor may suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen for pain relief. Physiotherapy is often recommended to help the patient regain ankle strength.

Unstable fractures

Unstable fractures are most common high-impact injuries and among the elderly. These fractures involve bones breaking repeatedly or damaging surrounding ligaments. Typically, surgery is required to restore ankle alignment. The orthopaedic surgeon will use pins, screws, plates or other instruments to stabilise the area. After surgery, physical therapy will be prescribed to help the patient regain strength and stability. NSAIDs may also be helpful in reducing pain and swelling.

Recovery time

Recovery from an ankle fracture varies depending on the severity of the injury and other factors, such as the level of activity to which one wishes to return and the extent of surgery.

On average, fractures take about two months to heal completely, during which time the patient can expect some degree of persistent pain that tends to improve over the course of weeks.

Swelling and bruising generally decrease during the first few weeks of the healing process, but residual swelling may persist for months. Ankle stiffness is another common consequence, making it difficult to put weight back on the injured part.

Stable fractures require avoiding putting weight on the foot by using crutches, boots or casts for about four to six weeks before starting physical therapy. Physical therapy usually lasts two months. After this period, most patients are able to walk and resume their daily activities, but it usually takes at least three to four months to return to low-impact sports activities.

Ankle fractures can range from a minor inconvenience to a life-changing injury. Contacting a foot and ankle specialist is essential to receive optimal care.

At UPMC Salvator Mundi International Hospital, you will find the right orthopaedic specialist for your problem.