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Guide to Proper Fractured Ankle Treatment

by Patty Weasler, RN December 22, 2021 0 Comments

fastening ankle brace

A broken or fractured ankle is one of the most common lower leg injuries. A broken ankle is defined as at least one broken bone in the ankle joint. If you think you’ve broken your ankle, the very first thing you need to do is to call your doctor. After your doctor visit, you’ll be in charge of your follow-up treatment and recovery. Keep scrolling to learn what to expect from a fractured ankle treatment plan.     

At-Home Fractured Ankle Treatments

Treatment for a fractured ankle will depend upon the type of fracture and its severity. Regardless, there are home remedy options to help reduce pain and swelling associated with a broken ankle.

Find More Tips for a Broken Ankle

The RICE Treatment

Oftentimes, your doctor will splint your ankle and have you go home for a period of time before you have a cast put on. This is to let the swelling go down on your foot and ankle. During this time use the RICE acronym to manage pain and encourage swelling to dissipate.

  • Rest

    This first step is simple, stay off your injured ankle to avoid adding extra stress to the lower leg.

  • Ice

    Icing ankle injuries is an inexpensive way to reduce pain and swelling. A fractured ankle will cause the soft tissue surrounding it to swell, resulting in bruising and pain.

    Wrap your injured ankle in an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time. Make sure to avoid putting the ice pack directly on your skin and never sleep with an ice pack on.

  • Compression

    Compression also helps to reduce swelling. Fluid won’t settle into the soft tissue because it’s being compressed by a bandage or splint. When you compress your ankle, be sure to make it tight enough to prevent swelling but not so tight that you are restricting blood flood.

  • Elevation

    Raising your foot and ankle can reduce swelling and pain. When you are resting, place a pillow under your lower leg to raise your foot up above the level of your heart. Raising the injured ankle up this high will be more effective at encouraging venous blood return.

Fractured Ankle Exercises

Exercise may not be the first treatment you think of for a broken ankle. But after your fractured ankle has healed and the cast is gone it’s time to get that ankle moving. Exercise will help you regain your range of motion and strength you lost from keeping your ankle bones immobilized.

Always get approval from your doctor before you begin exercising.

Broken Ankles Exercises


Using an ankle brace will help to immobilize your ankle and promote healing. There are different types of ankle braces with different levels of support. Once you start moving again, it’s a smart idea to find a brace that keeps your ankle joint stable, but allows for you to walk, participate in sports, and get back to regular activities. The compression and support of your ligaments also can reduce the likelihood of suffering an ankle sprain.

Choosing the Best Ankle Brace

Professional Treatment

Every ankle fracture will need professional treatment. Your doctor will likely start with a physical exam and an x-ray to determine the sight of the fracture. Once all the tests are complete your doctor will then discuss their plan of treatment. Below are possible treatments that you may encounter with a broken ankle.


If your ankle has a displacement, a space between the broken bones, then a doctor might need to perform a reduction. This is when the doctor physically realigns the bones into the right position without surgery. This can be painful and you will be given medication to help your muscles relax and to block the pain.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist will help you rehabilitate after your broken bone. They will guide you through a series of exercises and stretches and send you home with a handout of movements to continue the rehab. This is an important step in the recovery process that is necessary to ensure that you regain the strength you lost. It may take months for you to walk without limping and return to your baseline strength.

Physical Therapy for Fractured Ankles

Leg Cast

When you think of a broken bone you may think of leg casts. A short leg cast is used on some types of ankle fractures but not all. The severity of the break and its location will all determine if you need to be casted. You typically will not get a cast on your leg until about 2 weeks after your injury. This will allow for swelling to subside before casting. Your orthopedic surgeon will discuss your options and determine what is best for your situation.

Surgical Treatment

Not everyone needs surgical treatment for their ankle fracture. You are more likely to need it if there is a reason your ankle will not heal normally, some reasons are if your bone is dramatically out of alignment after the break, bone breaks through your skin, or for severe fractures where the bone breaks into multiple pieces.

If your doctor determines that you do in fact need surgery you may need an open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). An open reduction is when orthopedic surgeons surgically realign the broken bones. During an internal fixation, the surgeon reconnects the bones using screws, plates, or other devices. These procedures ensure the bones heal in the correct position.

Staying Mobile During Recovery

You’ve broken one or more bones in your ankle and your doctor or orthopedic surgeon has told you that you are not to be weight bearing on that foot. Staying mobile can be a real problem. One solution is a knee walker. With this tool, you’ll be able to stay completely non-weight bearing and get around with minimal effort. Another option are forearm crutches. You won’t be completely non-weight bearing with these but are a great solution when you can place a small amount of weight on your foot.

Choosing the Right Ankle Treatment

A broken ankle can include a break in the fibula, tibia, or talus. This can land you in the emergency room with severe pain. An ER doctor or orthopaedic surgeon will evaluate your lower leg and foot and likely order an ankle x-ray. Your treatment will depend upon the severity of the ankle break and may include a cast, splint, surgical repair, or physical therapy. Whichever route your healthcare professional recommends you’ll need to become an active member in your treatment and rehab to have a successful recovery.


Broken Ankle Products


Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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