Sprained Ankle vs Broken Ankle: Understanding the Difference

Sprained Ankle vs Broken Ankle

Have you ever hurt your ankle and wondered if it’s a sprain or a break? It’s pretty common to get these two mixed up. Both injuries happen during similar activities, like tripping or playing sports, and both can really hurt. But knowing if you have a sprained ankle or a broken ankle is super important for getting the right treatment and getting better faster.

What’s a Sprained Ankle?

A sprained ankle happens when the ligaments in your ankle get stretched too much and tear. Ligaments are like strong rubber bands that connect your bones and keep your joints stable. Sprains can be light, moderate, or really bad, depending on how much the ligament is damaged.

Signs of a Sprained Ankle:

  • Pain, especially when you stand or walk
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Can’t move it like usual
  • You might feel or hear a pop when it happens

What’s a Broken Ankle?

A broken ankle, or an ankle fracture, is more serious. It means one or more of the bones in your ankle is cracked or completely broken. The bones that can break in your ankle are the tibia, fibula, and talus.

Signs of a Broken Ankle:

  • Really bad pain right away
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Can’t put any weight on it
  • Looks out of shape
  • You might hear a snap or crack when it happens

How to Tell Them Apart

  1. Pain and Swelling: A broken ankle usually hurts more and swells more than a sprain.
  2. Shape of Ankle: If your ankle looks weird or out of place, it might be broken.
  3. Standing on it: If you can’t stand on your foot at all, it’s more likely to be broken.
  4. Where it Hurts: In a sprain, it hurts more around the soft part. In a break, it hurts right on the bone.
  5. Tests: To know for sure, you’ll need an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.


For a Sprained Ankle:
  • Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE)
  • Painkillers
  • Ankle brace or wrap
  • Exercises to make it strong again
For a Broken Ankle:
  • A cast or splint to keep it still
  • Painkillers
  • Maybe surgery if it’s really bad
  • Exercises after it’s healed

Getting Better

How long it takes to get better depends on how bad the injury is and your own health. A small sprain might get better in a few weeks, but a really bad sprain or a break can take several months.

Tips to Avoid Hurting Your Ankle

  • Wear the right shoes
  • Watch out for uneven ground
  • Do exercises to make your ankles stronger
  • Warm up before doing sports or exercise


While sprained and broken ankles can seem similar, they’re different in how bad they are, how you treat them, and how long it takes to get better. Don’t try to guess what it is by yourself. Always see a doctor to know for sure and get the right help. Getting help quickly is the best way to heal fast and well.

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