Every-so-often, you stumble across a worst-case-scenario story that reminds us all just how serious an injury a broken foot or ankle really is. Today is one of those days.
Last week, in going through old news stories, we stumbled across final toxicology reports from the New Orleans coroner who revealed that a woman who died last October was, in fact, killed by her broken ankle.
Apparently, the woman’s abusive boyfriend caused her initial injury by repeatedly smashing her leg with a crock pot insert. Ten days later, a blood clot broke free from the site of the fracture and traveled up to her heart, where it killed her.
Clearly, this was not your average ankle break. However, there is an important message to take away from this tragic story. If not treated quickly (or if improperly set), a broken bone in your foot or ankle can lead to blood clots that, in many instances, become fatal.
But how can you tell if your ankle is broken? And what steps should you take to heal it properly? Keep reading to find out!
Identifying a Broken Ankle
While the most common type of ankle injury is a sprain, broken ankles are also a major concern. After an injury, whether you've sustained a sprain or a fracture, you may notice symptoms like pain, swelling and bruising. Walking will be painful, but it could still be possible with either injury. So, how can you tell if you've sprained or broken your ankle?
Here's the deal. On your own, you can't tell if you've strained, sprained or broken your ankle. In fact, the only way to diagnose a fracture is with an x-ray. Luckily, in our Houston podiatry practice, we provide in-office x-rays. That way, we can quickly diagnose the nature of your injury. Then, we can begin crafting your perfect treatment plan.
How to Treat an Ankle Fracture
If you've broken one or more bones in your ankle, you'll need to take weight off your bone so it can heal. Now, if the break is clean, we can accomplish that with a cast, or a walking boot, depending on the severity of your injury. But if your fracture is displaced, you may need surgery to realign the broken bones and ensure proper healing. Either way, after completing your treatment plan, we'll need to focus on your rehab. You see, after a weeks-long period of immobilization, your ankle may need to regain strength. Also, you may need extra help to regain your full range of motion. Here are some moves you can make in order to help speed up your recovery.
Rehabbing a Broken Ankle After Treatment
After your cast or boot comes off, engaging in rehab exercises can help you get back to your former self. Here are some moves to try, as long as you've been cleared for exercise.
1. Ankle Flexion
Move your ankle up and down like you're hitting the gas in your car. Practice this for at least five minutes a day to improve circulation and prevent swelling.
2. Ankle Strengthener
If you want to regain ankle strength without putting too much pressure on your newly-healed bone, try this move in a seated position. First, stretch your legs out straight on the ground. Next, push the front of your foot into your hands, keeping it there for at least five seconds. Repeat at least 10 times a day on each foot.
3. Raise Your Heel
While it may seem odd, heel raises to build up your calf muscles can help stabilize your ankle. So, for this move, rock back and forth on your foot. Start by raising your heels off the ground by placing weight on your toes. Then, rock back and raise your toes off the ground, placing weight on your heels. Keep this movement going for two to three minutes each day.
4. Get Your Stretch On
After spending a few weeks in a cast or walking boot, your gait could be affected. And, when you walk differently, that can put extra pressure on other parts of your body, including your calf muscles and your Achilles tendon. As such, stretching out both these areas daily can help you regain a normal gait, taking extra pressure off your newly healed ankle.
5. Circle the Ankle
After a broken ankle, you want to regain strength and stability, as well as full range of motion. To that end, rolling your ankle in clockwise and counter clockwise circles each day can help your ankle move like it used to. Do this while sitting or standing, depending on your balance. And practice the exercise for at least five minutes each day during your recovery.
6. Hit the Pool or the Bike
Not sure which forms of exercise to get into when you're coming back from a broken ankle? Here are two suggestions. First, try bike riding, ideally on a stationary bike at first, since you can control the pressure on your ankle by adjusting resistance levels. Not one for cycling? Don't worry! Just get in the pool to help your recovery. (We also love pool workouts when you're sidelined by a running injury, BTW.) Once you're in the water, try kicking through the pool while holding a kickboard. Or, stay put and flutter kick while holding the sides of the pool. You can also swim laps, or even do a jog in the pool, as all of these moves will help you regain strength without the pressure of your body weight.
Diagnosing, Treating and Healing a Broken Ankle in Houston, TX
Obviously, dying of a broken ankle is an incredibly rare complication. But having an ankle fracture that doesn't heal properly is a more common problem than you'd think. And it's often the result of trying to walk off an injury.
You see, not seeking immediate treatment for a suspected fracture can, may not actually kill you. But it can worsen an existing injury. And it can complicate and extend your recovery period. If you have been injured and suspect that there is even the slightest possibility that you’ve broken a bone, it is of utmost importance that you get your foot or ankle x-rayed as soon as possible.
In my Houston podiatry practice, I am able to take x-rays, set and cast broken bones, all with a much quicker turn-around time than your average emergency room. Don’t wait: see Dr. Andrew Schneider immediately after you get hurt to avoid further complications.