Sprained Or Broken Ankle? Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention

How do you know if you’ve sprained your ankle or broken your ankle? You’ve rolled it and you have some pain and some swelling. As the onsite Physical Therapist, Dr. Scotti is available to help triage the situation and help to determine right away if there is a break or a sprain.


If you are more of the visual and auditory learner just click the YouTube video below outlining everything that is in this article!



How do we determine if there’s a sprain or a fracture? We utilize something called the Ottawa Ankle Rules.  This simply means that if you have pain on the outside of your ankle after you roll it and you’re unable to take steps or walk on the ankle right after it occurs, we’re going to want to send you for a radiograph (x-ray) to rule out a fracture.  This is to make sure that outside bone is not broken!  It is possible that upon the trauma of rolling your ankle, that the fibula can fracture.  If there is bony tenderness as well as pain in the area, we would want to immediately send for an x-ray.


Ankle Fracture After Rolling Your Ankle


Many times people ask, well what should I do? Ice, elevate, rest? Well, yes.  However, if there is that pain on the outside bone or you really feel like you cannot put weight on it, then you absolutely need to go get an x-ray just to rule out a fracture.  This is the first and foremost thing we want to do!


The second thing we want to discuss is many times we have individuals who sprain their ankles and then they ask: “okay, so do I need Physical Therapy or should I just let it rest?” In most cases, we want to refrain from “just resting”.  If you chronically sprain your ankle, so you’re constantly spraining it and you’re not really doing damage because you’re rolled it so many times, maybe you don’t need physical therapy for that initial phase but you DO need physical therapy to help correct the weakness and instability that’s leading you to continuously sprain it.  In general, it is recommended that you get an evaluation by a physical therapist so they can diagnose the grade of the sprain and determine a prognosis for you, meaning how long is it going to take for your ankle to heal.  In general, you’re going to need to focus on decreasing the swelling in your ankle and getting your range of motion or movement back in your ankle. Following that you’re going to want to work on strengthening all of the surrounding musculature of the leg and hip.  Keep in mind, the hip is going to play a role in what happens at the foot and ankle.


What we’re commonly seeing is individuals spraining their ankle, going to the Emergency room and getting placed in an immobilizing boot for 2 or 3 weeks.


CAM [controlled ankle motion] walking boot


Then going right from that phase of immobility to walking again.  These individuals who have been immobilized for a while come in and they haven’t really started any physical therapy or dealt with their injury the proper way, they have this pain or continued pain and their joints are stiff.  The joint has locked up and become stiff.  Physical therapists can apply manual therapy to help increase mobility.  We want to be promoting movement and mobility so that there is not any stiffness and pain following the injury.  Especially as you age, you’re not going to bounce back as quickly. You may need some help to get that full mobility going!

Mobilization Techniques Physical Therapists Apply To Improve The Mobility In Your Ankle


These are the reasons you really need Physical Therapy after your ankle sprain!

For a more in depth analysis of how to heal an ankle sprain in a dancer CLICK THIS LINK for a previous blog post article posted.


The final topic we want to talk about is PREVENTION of an ankle sprain!


Exercise to strengthen the stabilizer muscles of the ankle


It’s so important to discuss this and be aware of how to take preventative measures. Especially if you’ve sprained your ankle once, unfortunately you’re more likely to sprain it again. This is really focused around the strengthening and stabilization of the ankle. This is what we call Neuromuscular control. So not only utilizing the muscles in your foot and ankle but also your knee muscles and hip muscles. The outside hip muscles such as gluteus medius and your rotator hip muscles will play a role in the movement of your foot.



These muscles help to control pronation and supination at the foot, or rolling in and out. We want to focus on strengthening the evertors on the outside of your ankle as well. We want to be strengthening these muscles with not only a theraband but with your foot on the ground with you standing so you can actually work on that neuromuscular control and those muscles.



This is going to be vital in helping to retrain the control of the muscles around the ankles. You also need to train your muscles plyometrically. These exercises are going to be very important for any type of running or jumping in your activity!


Are you a dance parent who is wondering what it will cost your daughter in the long run if she continues to work through the pain?

Have you seen other medical providers in the past that just tell you to stop dancing?


We have a unique treatment approach that focuses on solving these problems with our clients.

Our goal is to help keep your dancer active while recovering from injury by staying in the studio and guiding them in ways to modify their training, rather than eliminating dance!

We combine manual hands-on techniques with guided supervised exercises to help your dancer get stronger, pain-free, and perform at their peak level to get them back in the classroom and on the stage.



The SPARK Physical Therapy Commitment

  • No long waits or multiple trips to providers’ offices every week. We see your dancer either onsite at your studio or in the comfort of your home when it is convenient with your schedule.
  • One on one for a full hour with your doctor of physical therapy, every visit.
  • We provide your dancer with a customized plan specifically designed for them, based off their unique injury and goals.
  • Full transparency in what you pay. You will never get a bill from us a couple of months after your visit.
  • Access and availability to you! Have a question about your dancer’s pain or exercise program? Get an answer from your therapist directly.


If you’re in the Wallingford, CT area and are a dancer that has been dealing with injuries we can help. We’d love to chat for a few minutes and see if you are a good fit for what we do. Fill in this CONTACT REQUEST LINK and we’ll set up a free 15-minute phone consultation with a doctor of physical therapy


Thank you for taking the time to read,


– Duane Scotti, PT, DPT, PhD, OCS


A special thanks goes out to Allie Eldridge, SPT for her contributions to this article


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Sprained Or Broken Ankle? Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention

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“I went to see Duane early into my marathon training with hamstring pain. At that time, I was barely able to run 3 miles and was in pain. After a thorough exam and analysis of my running, he was able to diagnose and start treatment that day. Duane provided me with exercises to strengthen my hamstring and surrounding running muscles, all while slowly building my mileage back up. He was honest with me about setting realistic goals for my race and helped me to meet those goals. With his help, I was able to run the New York City Marathon.”

Jolene G. (Runner)

“I first went to Duane prior to training for my first full marathon because I had some aches and pains from running that I wanted to sort out. Duane was able to diagnose the problems immediately and I went home pain free. The exercises he prescribed were personalized to my needs and within a few weeks, I felt stronger and pain free while running so I could get to healthy training! It’s great to have a physical therapist who understands athletes and encourages people to continue to stay active. I highly recommend Duane to any person who is looking to stay healthy while maintaining an active lifestyle!”

Katie R. (Runner)

SPARK Physical Therapy was instrumental in my recovery of from achilles tendinitis. I visited a podiatrist who said I would need surgery to shave down a bone spur and Haglund’s Deformity. The recovery would be at least 8 weeks and at the time I was 24 weeks from running the NYC Marathon. Duane evaluated me and said I needed to work on my calf muscle and flexibility. We started treatment with dry needling and specific exercises that I could do on my own. The pain subsided and even after some long runs everything was starting to feel better. I will tell you that I ran and finished the NYC Marathon without pain or issues from my achilles. Had I not met Duane about a week after my podiatrist appointment I would have needed to defer my marathon and probably would still be recovering from the surgery. I was able to run through my injury safely and achieve my goal. The refreshing thing about SPARK Physical Therapy is they do not push for ton of session. I met my running goals in 10 sessions spread out over 3-4 months. Big Thank you to Duane and I highly recommend seeing him for any running injury you may have!


Louis G.(Runner)

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