Though breaking your ankle and spraining you ankle is a completely different type of injury, it can be difficult to understand sprained ankle symptoms just by “feel”. A bad sprain can be much more painful than a light break and vice versa. Unfortunately, for those of us who like to admit defeat and consult a professional, the best way to tell is to go to the doctor and get an x-ray. Guessing (even educated guesses) can result in larger problems down the road if your guess-work results in an incorrect diagnosis. However, there are a few telltale signs that can help you figure out if your ankle is broken or twisted – unfortunately none of these sprained ankle symptoms are one hundred percent reliable.
When you injured the ankle, what kind of noise did you hear? A popping or ripping sound is indicative of a sprain. A sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments in your ankle. That sound you heard is the sound of your ligaments doing things they shouldn’t. One of my worse injuries sounded like Christopher Walken doing a Spanish accent. It turned out to be a sprain. A cracking noise indicates a break. Even small fractures can be difficult to heal. However, depending on the degree of the fracture and the environment in which you were injured, you may or may not hear a noise.
Next on your list of sprained ankle symptoms is a test of ‘reactionary’ vs. ‘constant’ pain. At the moment of injury immediately get off your feet. Any place will do; a bench, a curb, the ground. Taking pressure off the injury will help you determine the type of pain you are experiencing. Reactionary pain is experienced when you move the injured area. For example, placing your foot on the ground, moving your ankle in different directions, or touching the area are all simple tests. If you are only experiencing discomfort from the initial injury, and pain comes only when moving or touching the injured site, this is probably indicative of a sprain. However, complete tearing of a ligament could result in NO PAIN or EXTREME PAIN, making these sprained ankle symptoms all so confusing. If you are experiencing constant pain, regardless of how much you move or don’t move the area, this is probably a break.
Here is another test of ‘reactionary’ vs. ‘constant’ pain. Sit on the floor facing a firm wall with both feet in front of you and put you injured foot flat against the wall. Push softly against the wall with your injured foot. If you are able to do this, no large bones are fractured or broken. If when you do this you experience a good amount of pain in places other than your ankle, you probably have broken something.
Sprained ankle symptoms my also include a feeling of ankle instability. I know, at this time who wants to put pressure on the injury right? However, a serious ankle sprain resulting from completely tearing a ligament will give you an ‘unstable’ feeling when walking on your ankle. A break will probably make it impossible to walk or you will experience pain in other parts of your body in addition to your ankle.
Another test of sprained ankle symptoms is the “wait and see” test. Initial injury is a very difficult time to diagnose yourself because really, a little pain and a lot of pain is difficult to differentiate, and who really knows what Christopher Walken doing a Spanish accent sounds like. So get home quickly (if you’re able to walk yourself home it’s probably a sprain) and begin the RICE system. If the pain keeps you up at night – it’s probably a break. If after 24 to 48 hours you’re feeling better, it’s probably a sprain. If after 48 hour of RICE you are feeling better, you should start rehabilitation exercises for your ankle to speed up recovery time.