The word fracture refers to a break of the bone.
The ankle joint comprises a foot bone called the talus and two long bones of the lower leg – the tibia and fibula. A fractured ankle can involve one or more of these bones, and may involve some ligament damage too.
Fractures of the ankle can occur for a variety of reasons, usually with impact or due to a fall. Most people notice pain and swelling of the joint, and it is difficult to put weight on that foot.
Your recovery time will depend on a number of factors, including the type of fracture and the number of bones involved. Your general health will also play a role. It can take six to eight weeks for bones to heal, although the bone will continue to strengthen for up to a year afterwards.
There are different ways to treat an ankle fracture, either by surgical means or conservatively (no surgery).
A plaster cast or a special boot is used to manage a fracture where the bones are stable and have not moved position.
You will be provided with walking aids such as elbow crutches and may be instructed to keep your weight off the injured foot.
Your doctor will discuss with you how long you should expect to wear the plaster or boot, and explain how much weight you can put on that leg when standing or walking.
Your bone may be out of alignment or be unstable and therefore you will need to have an operation to ‘fix’ the bone in place with a plate or screws.
Your leg will be in plaster and you may be discharged fairly quickly.
You may need to take medication in order to manage your pain. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
If your plaster is below the knee, you can regularly bend and straighten the knee to ensure it does not get too stiff. You can also wriggle your toes regularly.
After your cast is removed
As the ankle hasn’t been moving for a number of weeks, it is common to experience:
- Reduced movement/stiffness
- Reduced strength
- Muscle wasting
What you can do
- Elevate your leg to reduce swelling
- Put an ice pack on the area for 15 minutes (wrap it in a towel first) and check the skin regularly for any ice burns
- Continue to use any walking aids until advised otherwise
- Start the exercises below (expect to experience some mild discomfort)
- Sit on a comfortable flat surface with your legs stretched out. Keeping your knee straight, pull your foot up towards the knee and then push away. Repeat.
- Sit on a comfortable flat surface with your legs stretched out. Put a band or towel around the foot and use it to gently pull the foot towards you to feel the stretch in your calf.
- Sit on a chair with your foot on the floor. Roll the foot inwards and outwards.
- Sit on a chair with your foot off the floor. Circle your ankle in both directions.
Each exercise can be done for 30 seconds two to three times, regularly throughout the day.
You may be referred to a physiotherapist by your doctor following surgery in order to improve the movement and strength around the ankle.
Physiotherapy Outpatients’ Department – 01271 322378
NHS website – www.nhs.uk/conditions
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