Many ER visits are for ankle injuries, often caused by sports injuries, walking on uneven surfaces, or car accidents. When you injure your ankle, you may ask yourself “Is this ankle sprained or broken?”
The difference between a sprain and a break is whether you have a broken bone or a stretched or torn ligament or tendon. In general, if there is tenderness when you touch your ankle bone, there is a good chance that it is broken. If the tenderness is localized over the soft tissue, it is more likely a sprain or strain of the ligaments or tendons. With either injury, there is usually pain, swelling, and bruising around the area.
You can easily remember first aid measures for sprained ankles with the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Stay off of your ankle and keep it elevated. Wrap your ankle with an ACE wrap or other commercially available compression bandage to minimize swelling, and hold an ice bag on your ankle. You should elevate the ankle and place an ice bag on it. Compression can be achieved by using an Ace wrap or commercially available compression wrap. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) are recommended to alleviate pain.
If you absolutely cannot bear weight on the affected ankle, you most likely have a fracture, and you should come directly to the ER. If your pain persists or you are having difficulty walking after applying first aid measures, you should probably consider coming to the ER for a physician evaluation and, most likely, an X-ray of your ankle. In the ER, you will meet with a doctor who will examine your injury, discuss the results of your X-rays with you, and recommend treatment. Being able to tell the doctor how the injury occurred will be useful in determining the extent and location of the injury. Be prepared to discuss if the ankle turned in or turned out, if it was twisted, and what kind of activity you were doing at the time of the injury to help the doctor determine which ligaments and tendons were injured. As always, if you are taking any prescription medications remember to bring a list so that you can be properly treated.
Don’t wait until an emergency to Google “urgent care near me”. If you find your ankle sprained or broken and need immediate assistance, contact Hospitality Health ER for 24 hour emergency care that Tyler, Texas can depend on.
Written by your emergency physician: Pam Hall MD