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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You can teach an old dog new tricks!!!  I have never considered myself a runner and I knew I needed to be smart about it because I am no spring chicken. Spark preached getting strong and healthy to be injury free and they practice what they preach.  I am soooo glad I made the investment in me!  I finished my half marathon last weekend and couldn’t be any happier!  The program fed me all the steps I needed to essentially learn how to run long distance, build strength, nutrition help, a forum of other runners and probably most important was the 1:1 coaching.  I had no idea how to tackle training for a 1/2 marathon and this program broke all of it down, had it individualized for me and we tweaked as we went to make sure I was staying healthy and strong.  I had so many questions the week prior to my race and Coach Cat was always there for me and answering all the questions and issues I had-and believe me there were a lot!  The biggest benefit I think I got was the strength. I am strong and fit. But most important was what I gained emotionally.  I built confidence and strength I didn’t know I had, even at my age.  Honestly could not have done this without Spark Healthy Runners!

Gina J.

My Healthy Runner journey started after I had battled bilateral achilles pain for a few months and was frustrated how it affected my running. As soon as I talked to Duane I knew I had made the right decision. His positivity, enthusiasm and genuine care are infectious. The training plan that was tailored to me included specific exercises to rehab my injury and I was so excited that I didn’t have to stop running. It took patience to only run slow for a few weeks but I trusted the process and it got me me to where I am now: running pain free. We made adjustments to the plan throughout whenever needed having someone in your corner that is always there with guidance and support throughout the process was invaluable.

I just ran my second half marathon, both with Duane’s coaching, and PR’d by over 9 minutes! I got all choked up in the last mile when I realized that I felt strong and could still kick it up a notch.

I’m so thankful for the Healthy Runner program, community and the entire coaching team for all the support!

Katja L.

Wanting to run more consistently, and to increase my long run distance and total weekly mileage, I was concerned about hip pain due to hip alignment issues. This is an issue I had when I trained for my first half marathon several years ago. Having listened to the Healthy Runner podcast for the past couple years, I knew Duane Scotti could help. I signed up for the four-month strength and running training program and am extremely happy with the results.

The program Duane and Coach Whitney developed for me was exactly what I needed. It was tailored to my needs and to my target race. Coach Whitney was very helpful, and with the biweekly coaching calls, we were able to fine tune the program based off my performance and feedback.

At the end of the program, I completed a 10K trail race feeling strong and pain free.

I highly recommend Duane Scotti and the Healthy Runner training programs.

Roger S.

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