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Ankles sprains and ankle fractures both cause pain and impact your mobility, so how can you tell them apart? In most cases, the best strategy is to see your podiatrist and get an accurate diagnosis, so you can follow the right treatment plan. If you’re suffering from ankle pain in Chicago and aren’t sure if a sprain or fracture is to blame, here is what you need to know.

Ankle Sprains

An ankle sprain occurs when a ligament in your ankle is damaged. The damage can be mild and involve stretching the ligament, or it can be severe, with the ligament tearing. When a sprain occurs, you are likely to experience immediate pain and have difficulty walking. Sprains also cause swelling and bruising, and the area of the injury may be tender when you touch it. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may be able to walk with a limp. Also, you may struggle to put any weight on your injured ankle.

The good news about ankle sprains is that they can usually be treated at home using the RICE protocol. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Treating your ankle with these methods should allow a sprain to heal within a few days. For severe pain, over-the-counter medications can help. Despite the effectiveness of home treatment, getting a diagnosis by your foot doctor should be your first step.

Ankle Fractures

Sometimes, ankle fractures are easy to differentiate from ankle sprains, because damage to the bone can be seen. In other instances, fractures are more difficult to spot. Ankle fractures cause pain and swelling, and it is usually impossible to put any weight on the injury. You may hear the bone crack when the injury occurs, which is a clue that you have a broken bone. Numbness is also a common symptom of ankle fractures.

Fractures always require treatment by your podiatrist. You will need to wear a cast, boot, or splint to allow your injury to heal. In severe cases, you may need surgery to repair the bone. If you suspect your ankle pain is caused by a fracture, see your podiatrist for an X-ray right away.

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