15 Sep What To Do After An Ankle Fracture
So you fell and twisted your ankle and your foot swelled up like a balloon. You find out you have an ankle fracture and you’re sidelined for 4-6 weeks in a cast. Time goes by, you see the doctor and he says the bone is healed, you’re good to go! You get the cast removed, but you realize your calf is shriveled up and tiny compared to the other side. Even worse, it hurts to move your foot, your ankle feels weak, you can’t even put weight on your foot, now what?! In this article, we will detail exactly what an ankle fracture is and some exercises to jump-start your rehab when you get your cast off.
What Is An Ankle Fracture?
A broken ankle, also referred to as an ankle fracture, is typically a break in the distal fibula or tibia bone at the ankle joint, which are the bones located in the lower leg on the outside and inside respectively. Ankle fractures typically occur from falls that involve twisting of the foot, awkward landings, and contact sports injuries. Ankle fractures can range from being simple to complex, whether it be just an isolated medial or lateral malleolus fracture or an ankle dislocation with a bi/trimalleolar fracture. You can learn more about the type and severity of ankle fractures here
How Do I know If I Broke My Ankle? Should I Get An X-Ray?
Maybe you stumbled upon this article because you just hurt your ankle and you’re trying to decide if you should seek medical attention or not. Well, you’ve come to the right place! This is a really good question, so good that researchers decided to figure out who should and who shouldn’t get x-rays to save the health care system some money. The Ottawa Ankle Rules concluded the following ankle x-ray screening questions…
- Can you take 4 steps (it is okay if you need to limp)? NO? –> GET AN X-RAY
- Do you have tenderness/pain around your medial or lateral malleoli (the little bone bumps on either side of your ankle)? Specifically the backside of the bones? YES? –> GET AN X-RAY
In regards to if you possibly have a bone fracture in your foot…
- Do you have tenderness/pain around the base of the 5th metatarsal (bump on the lateral/outside portion of your foot; halfway between your heel and your little toe)? YES? –> GET AN X-RAY
- Do you have tenderness/pain around the navicular bone (bump on the medial/inside portion of your foot?) YES> –> GET AN X-RAY
You can learn more about the Ottawa Ankle Rules and if you should get an x-ray for your ankle/foot in another article we wrote here
So I Broke My Ankle, Now What?
It sucks to be stuck in a cast for 4-6 weeks. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be completely sedentary. Now we aren’t saying you have to lift weights and use cardio equipment with only one leg, but don’t just sit on your butt on the couch for a month! Technically you can still do upper body exercises and even train your other leg.
How To Stay Strong In A Boot
The common concerns are that you will be lop-sided and create asymmetries/imbalances if you only train your other leg. That is false! If anything training your other leg can lead to something called the crossover effect, helping to maintain size and strength of your other leg!
So I Got My Cast Off, Now What?
Getting your cast off can feel like the most glorious day ever. However, your calf and ankle may not be the prettiest sight, it may look extra skinny with dead skin. Even worse, your foot may be swollen and really STIFF. Don’t fret, we are going to teach you how to get your ankle and foot moving again and using it as much as you can! In regards to your skin, take a well-earned bath/shower and use lotion to nourish the skin.
Range Of Motion Exercises
With your average non-complicated ankle fracture, gentle introduction to range of motion exercises in every direction is exactly what your ankle wants and needs. Below you will find multiple videos to help get your ankle moving again!
Calf Stretch With Strap
But My Ankle Still Hurts?
Some ankle fractures take longer than others to fully recovery. It can take a really long time, even up to a year, for your ankle to feel back to 100% normal like it did prior to the injury if it was a complicated fracture. This is especially true in regards to ankle mobility, strength, balance, and being able to support all of your weight through that foot and ankle in various positions. Bottom line is you have to be patient, remind yourself of how far you’ve come compared to day 1 of having your cast on. If you continue to have significant limitations and pain with your ankle, it may be in your best interest to seek help from a physical therapist. You can click here to learn more about what to expect in PT.
Want More Ankle Videos?
Be sure to check out our exercise library HERE to gain access to more videos like this!
- Bachmann LM, Kolb E, Koller MT, Steurer J, ter Riet G. Accuracy of Ottawa ankle rules to exclude fractures of the ankle and mid-foot: systematic review. BMJ. 2003;326:417