Sprained Ankle vs. Broken Ankle – What’s the Difference?  

Sprained Ankle vs. Broken Ankle – What’s the Difference?  

Spring is here which means mean of you will be getting outside for sports, hiking, exercise or overall enjoyment. Unfortunately, that can also lead to an increase in ankle injuries as you’re running, playing, jumping or just walking in unfamiliar places. With ankle injuries, it can sometimes be hard to tell if it’s a sprained ankle vs broken ankle.

Both can be extremely painful and require recovery time. If you’ve suffered an ankle injury, we will tell you what to look out for to tell if the ankle is broken vs sprained.

swollen left foot ankle from ankle sprain

How to Tell if Ankle is Broken vs Sprained

What is an Ankle Sprain?

A stretch or tear of a ligament. The ligament is the tissue connecting the two bones. It provides stability and support for the ankle joints.

A sprained can be caused by the wrenching or twisting of the joint.

Examples of this include planting your foot awkwardly while running or jumping or turning your ankle during sports, hiking or other physical activity.

Symptoms of a sprain include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Unstable joint
  • Unable to bear weight on joint
  • Tear or “popping” sound upon impact (normally in more severe cases)

The severity of your ankle sprain will determine course of treatment. For minor sprains rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) may be sufficient. For a severe sprain, a boot or brace can be used to immobilize the ankle.

woman holding ankle after she thinks she might have sprained it

Broken Ankles or Fractures

A broken ankle occurs when the bone is cracked or snapped. Sometimes the break will occur as a crack in the bone, not displacing the ankle but is still considered a fracture.

Ankle fractures can be caused by a fall, accident, or excessive force.

Seek medical care if you believe your ankle is broken or fractured. The doctor will ensure the ankle is reset (if needed) and immobilized in a boot or cast. Depending on severity of injury, surgery may be required.

pain holding left ankle not sure if he broke it versus sprained it

How to Tell if Ankle if Sprained vs Broken

If you suffered an ankle injury and still are not sure which type of injury occurred, here are a few signs to help you decide which type of injury you sustained:

  • Popping vs. Cracking Sound – most sprains will happen silently, even though sometimes you may here a ‘popping’ sound. If you hear a ‘crack’ sound, it is more likely a fracture within the bone. You may also hear a ‘grinding’ or ‘crunching’ sound while moving post-injury
  • Shape of ankle – swelling will most likely occur with either type injury. If your ankle is extremely misaligned, it is most likely a break/fracture.
  • Numbness – sprains will definitely result in pain but if you are experiencing tingling or numbness, you most likely suffered a fracture or break. This can be due to loss of blood flow and you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Location of pain – if your ankle pain is directly over your ankle and hurts to the touch, it is probably a break or fracture. If the pain in the softer part of the ankle, it is more likely a sprain.
person holding left ankle after twisting it from hiking

Chiropractic Care for Ankle Sprains

Chiropractic treatments can be extremely helpful when it comes to ankle recovery. These types of natural and holistic treatments can help speed up your recovery time and prevent repeat injury.


Did you know chiropractors can adjust more than just backs? Chiropractors can adjust almost any part of the body include legs, ankles and feet. Ankle sprains can often cause misalignments. A misaligned ankle can cause pain, weakness and prolong the recovery period.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is a great natural form of treatment that help revive blood flow and oxygen into the ankle to help supply the muscles and tendons with the nutrients they need to heal.

The method of treatment is also great for relieving pain from trigger points. Trigger points are “knots” or balls of pain in the body where the muscle or tendon tightens up. Injury and overuse can cause trigger points. An ankle injury like a sprain or break can cause stress to the ligaments and muscles in the ankle and surrounding it. Dry needling breaks up these trigger points and allows for blood and oxygen to flow freely.


Instrumented Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, also known as scraping technique, is a great way to break up scar tissue and encourage blood flow into the area.

Rehabilitative Exercises

One of the best ways chiropractic care can help treat ankle sprains is through rehabilitative exercises to help restrengthen the ankle tendons and joints.

Your ankle will be weaker after a sprain or break which makes it more susceptible to re-injury. Rehabilitative exercises can help after a sprain or break (once cleared from doctor) to rebuild strength and increase mobility. Try these simple exercises now!

Get Treated at Kaizo Health  

Our goal at Kaizo Health is to always get you back to feeling 100%. Our doctors provide treatment to help you be pain-free. We also have a dedicated team that will work with you and your insurance. We want to make sure you get the most from your benefits. You should experience relief for as little cost to you as possible. If you are ready to experience relief from the pain, make an appointment to see us now.       

Schedule Your Appointment Online

Kaizo Health offers locations in Rockville, MD; Landover, MD; Fort Washington, MD; and Fairfax, VA. Our doctors an evidence-based approach by combining chiropractic care and individualized rehabilitative exercises. We provide the treatment and resources you need to recover your health. We are here to help! If you’d like more information, check out our blog.

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