For appointments please call
02 9874 8410

How to Tell the Difference Between an Ankle Sprain and a Fracture


Are you hopping about or restricted to the couch because of a painful ankle? Are you wondering if it might be sprained or broken? Sometimes, the two injuries present quite similarly, but there are significant differences. So, how do you tell the difference?

Ankle injuries are common due to the complexity of ankles, the stress our lower limbs are under every day, and the risk involved in activities such as running, jumping, and climbing. They can also be highly impactful to daily life and difficult to heel because we want to get back on our feet as quickly as possible. Knowing what type of injury you have sustained and what type of treatment is required is important for a successful recovery.

At NDPE, treating ankle injuries is a frequent occurrence. We can help you understand the difference between an ankle sprain and an ankle fracture and assist with various physiotherapy methods. 


 What Is An Ankle Sprain? 

An ankle is considered sprained when the damage occurs to one or more of the ligaments in the region. This connective tissue is found between the bones and promotes stability. Though the ligaments are stretchy and strong, they can be overstretched, partially torn, or completely torn. 


What Is An Ankle Fracture?

An ankle is considered fractured when one or more of the three bones are broken to some extent. The bone may remain aligned or become displaced.

Ankle sprains and fractures can occur together when the ligaments and bones are affected during the incident.


The Signs And Symptoms Of Ankle Sprains And Fractures 

Ankle sprains and fractures often occur due to similar events, such as sporting accidents, tripping, or falling from a high structure. They can also present with similar signs and symptoms. These may include: 

  • Pain.
  • Tenderness.
  • Bruising.
  • Swelling.
  • Inability to weight bear as normal.


Ankle Sprains 

Ankle sprains often involve weakness in the area as the damaged ligament is unable to properly support the ankle bones, the foot, and the lower limb without causing pain or instability. 

Mild to moderate pain is generally described when it comes to ankle sprains. You may be able to weight bear on your foot, even straight after the injury has occurred, despite discomfort. 

When the injury occurs, there is usually no sound associated with it. In severe sprains, there may be a popping noise as the ligament is damaged.


Ankle Fractures 

Moderate to severe pain is generally described when it comes to ankle fractures. If the ankle is broken, you will typically be unable to weight bear on your foot. There may also be numbness or tingling in the ankle and surrounding areas.  

The ankle may look mishappen where the bones have shifted if it is broken. This differs from swelling, which can happen in sprains and fractures. 

When the break occurs, there may be a cracking sound. If the ankle is moved after the fracture, there may be a crunching or grinding noise.


Treatment For Ankle Sprains And Fractures

Treatment for sprains and fractures involve reducing the pain, swelling, and bruising. Elevation, cold therapy, and rest can be beneficial for both types of injuries. 

Moderate to severe sprains and fractures usually require immobilisation to prevent the soft tissue and bones from moving, which can promote healing and prevent further damage. This can be attained with the use of a brace, boot, or cast depending on the severity.

If the ankle has broken but the bones have remained in place and are aligned, immobilisation is generally sufficient. If the bones have moved and become misaligned within the foot, manipulation and surgery may be required depending on the severity.

When the ligament or bone has reached a sufficient point in its healing process, physiotherapy can assist to promote a successful recovery. 

The goals of physiotherapy for ankle sprains and fractures include:

  • Increasing strength.
  • Improving stability.
  • Regaining range of motion in the area. 


Our physios will develop a tailored treatment plan for you. This may include techniques such as: 

  • Exercise prescription.
  • Active and passive mobilisation.
  • Manual therapy.
  • Massage. 
  • Taping.


Physio Can Help Recovery From Ankle Sprains And Fractures 

Ankle injuries can be frustrating and painful. It is important to seek medical assistance promptly, especially if a fracture is suspected because complications can occur if treatment is not provided in time. Once assessment, such as an x-ray or scan, and medical treatment has been undertaken, our physiotherapists can develop a plan to help your recovery process. 

If you have sustained an ankle injury and are ready for the physiotherapy phase in your recovery process, please call to make an appointment with one of our experienced and friendly physios.



new patient
special offer
New patient special offer Click Here
SRC Health Support Recovery Comfort
AOK Health Pty Ltd Australian Physiotherapy Association Corporate Work Health Australia The Orthotic Group Vasyli Medical

Northern Districts Physiotherapy

Northern Districts Physiotherapy & Sports Clinic was established in 1995 and consists of an energetic team of highly qualified and experienced professionals who take the time to understand ...


Business Hours

We are now open Saturday’s….
Monday to Friday: 7am to 7pm
Saturday: 7am to 12noon

Contact Us

95 Ryedale Road
West Ryde NSW 2114

Ph 02 9874 8410
Fax 02 9874 6192

Facebook NDPE Google