Dr. Farizani Explains the Difference Between a Sprain or a Fracture

Dr. Farizani
November 15, 2021

Everything from accidents in football games, to car accidents, can cause ankle injuries that range from mild to severe. According to Mid America Orthopaedic, approximately 2 million people in the US are treated for ankle injuries each year. Two of the most common types of ankle injuries include ankle sprains and broken bones. However, it can be difficult to differentiate whether the person is suffering from an ankle sprain or if a bone is broken, as these injuries can appear the same.
Ankle joints are complex and vulnerable structures. Several people mistake an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain, but they are quite different and require an accurate and early diagnosis. Continue reading to learn the difference between a sprain or fracture to help determine which one you’ve sustained in an injury.

Ankle Sprain vs. Ankle Fracture

It can initially be tricky figuring out whether you are in pain due to a sprain or an ankle fracture when suffering from an ankle injury. If you don’t want to make a trip to the emergency room or urgent care, there are ways to determine the injured part of your ankle. However, it’s imperative to understand what a sprain and fracture actually are before trying to diagnose your injury.


A sprain is an injury in the soft tissue. They usually happen when the ankle is forced to move away from its normal position, which can cause ligaments to stretch, partially tear, or completely tear. This injury is typically caused by falls or sports trauma.

Ankle Fracture

An ankle fracture means that a bone is broken. They usually happen due to a twisting injury but can also be caused by a direct blow to the ankle. This injury occurs typically from car accidents or a severe fall.

Do I Have a Sprain or Ankle Fracture?

Now that we understand what a sprained ankle and ankle fracture are, we need to figure out what injury you are currently suffering from. Ask yourself the questions below:

1. Was there any type of noise made when the injury occurred?

It is most likely an ankle fracture if there was a noise, as you usually hear a crack from this injury.

2. Is your ankle deformed?
Swelling and bruising are expected for both injuries. However, if your ankle looks unusually “off,” it probably means a bone is broken.

3. Is your ankle numb or tingling?
Numbness or tingling from the ankle indicates a bone is broken.

4. Where is the injured part or pain?
When an ankle hurts or is tender to the touch directly over your ankle bone, you probably have a fracture. If the pain is in the soft part of your ankle, it’s more likely a sprain.

If you are still unsure, visit your local healthcare provider. They can examine your ankle and determine which injury you have: a sprained ankle or an ankle fracture.

Symptoms for an Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain can be mild or severe and have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Inability to hold weight
  • Trouble moving the injured area
  • Stiffness

If you think you are dealing with a sprained ankle, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention. A doctor will determine the severity of the sprain and choose the best course of treatment.

An ankle sprain has different treatment options, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Wearing a brace to support the ankle
  • Use of a crutch to keep the weight off the joint
  • Implementing the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the joint and restore range of motion
  • Rare but reconstructive surgery may be necessary to repair the torn ligaments and stabilize the joint

Symptoms for an Ankle Fracture

An ankle fracture is severe and has a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Numb or tingling of the toes
  • Inability to move the toes
  • Noticeable deformities of the bones around the ankle

If you think you are dealing with an ankle fracture, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention. A doctor at an emergency room or urgent care can use an  X-ray, MRI, or CAT scan to rule out damage to other structures such as ligaments, tendons, and muscles. They will then determine the best course of treatment.

An ankle fracture has different treatment options including:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Implementing the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
  • Taping or wrapping for less severe fractures
  • Casting and booting for more severe fractures
  • Use of a crutch to keep the weight off the joint
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the joint and restore range of motion
  • In severe cases, arthroscopic surgery to remove fragments of broken bone from the joint area

Treatment at Hillcroft Physicians

When experiencing an ankle injury, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention. It’s very common for people to misdiagnose a broken ankle for an ankle sprain. Therefore, it’s essential to go to an urgent care center or an emergency room as they have the proper equipment to quickly and correctly determine whether you have suffered from an ankle sprain or an ankle fracture.
At Hillcroft Physicians, we can determine the extent of your ankle injury, no matter what the cause. Medical Director of Hillcroft Physicians, Dr. Farizani, and her staff can decipher if you’ve sustained a sprain or fracture. Moving forward, we will develop the best treatment course for you to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. Dr. Farizani has over 23 years of experience and is committed to providing you with the most innovative treatments, procedures, and techniques. Call to book an appointment with Hillcroft Physicians today!

Dr. Farizani

Dr. Farizani created the medical and operational foundation of Hillcroft Physicians, PA., and expanded the clinic and its mission to become one of the largest small group practices in Houston. Dr. Farizani speaks English, Farsi, and Spanish.