How to Tell If an Ankle Is Sprained, Broken or Out of Joint

Ankles are one of the strongest joints of your body, designed to bear large amounts of weight and withstand different positions. But at the same time, ankle injuries are the most common joint injuries faced by people during their daily routine. If you have suffered an ankle injury and are feeling discomfort in walking, you have most likely sprained or fractured your ankle. There is a third possibility which can be a dislocated joint. Learning to identify between these three conditions can help you decide whether to treat the injury at home or visit a doctor.


  • 1

    Ankle sprain

    Ankle sprain occurs when one or more of the ligaments holding the ankle bones in place are partially torn. When you abruptly twist, roll or turn your foot, either inward or outward, it causes excessive stretching on the ligaments, resulting in an ankle sprain. It accounts for 85 percent of all ankle injuries. It is important to identify if the pain you are experiencing in your ankle is actually due to a sprain. A sprained ankle usually begins to swell soon after rolling, twisting or turning your foot. There are three levels of ankle sprain, mild, moderate and severe, as the level of the injury is determined depending upon the pain you experience when moving or using the injured ankle. Touch your ankle and check for any soreness or sensitivity. The area around the sprained ankle usually feels abnormally soft and tender.

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    Ankle fracture

    An ankle fracture occurs when one or more bones comprising the ankle joint are broken. Like an ankle sprain, the fracture has also a different level from mild, moderate to severe, depending upon how many bones have you broken in your ankle joint. If only one bone is broken, or you have suffered a hairline fracture, you may be able to walk with a little discomfort. However, several fractures force the ankle out of place and you may not be able to put weight on it for several months. Symptoms of an ankle fracture are almost similar to those of a sprain, though they are more severe. An ankle fracture is mostly detected by taking an X-Ray and the treatment involves casting and surgery.

  • 3

    Dislocated joint

    A joint dislocation occurs when there is abnormal separation in joint bones and is often a result of a severe ankle fracture in which several bones fracture at a time. It can also be caused by sudden trauma on the ankle joint like falling. Joint dislocation often damages the surrounding ligaments, muscles and nerves as well. The symptoms of a dislocated joint include intense pain, joint instability, reduced muscle strength, bruising or redness of the joint area as well as the area surrounding the joint. The treatment of dislocated joint involves manipulating the joint back into the actual position. This can be a very painful process so it is usually done in an operating room under general anesthesia.

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