If you have been reading my blog you’ll know that the other week I wrote part one of a two part series about ankle fractures. In A Guide To Ankle Fractures – Part One I talked about the different kinds of fractures and how to recognize each. In this blog, I want to focus on how physical therapy can help, and what the different treatment options are.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
When you go to visit your physical therapist after your injury and an ankle fracture is suspected, your physical therapist will do the following:
– Instruct you in how to take care of the injury using rest, ice, compression, and elevation – the RICE formula.
– Immobilize your ankle by wrapping it with a wrap, or applying a brace to limit motion and control the swelling.
– Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling.
– Instruct you to keep your ankle elevated to control swelling.
– Help you choose the right walking aid so that you are not putting weight on the injured ankle.
– Make recommendations for additional care with an orthopedic physician or emergency department.
If you have an ankle fracture, treatment will depend on how many bones are broken, and if it is a simple, complex, or compound fracture. Your initial treatment will involve the re-aligning and stabilizing of the bones by your physician performed in a hospital – or if needed, surgery.
If You Do Not Require Surgery
A physical therapist is there to help you recover from a broken ankle after it has been treated by a physician and immobilized. After the bone is healed, your physical therapist can help you gain back your strength, motion, and balance.
After your injured leg is placed in a cast your physical therapist will teach you how to walk without bearing weight on the injured ankle, by use of crutches or a walker. When healing of the fracture is seen on an x-ray, your physician will remove your cast, and you will begin bearing weight on that leg again, and continue your physical therapy treatment.
Physical therapy treatment will include:
– Walking Instruction. This includes beginning to put some of your weight on the injured ankle – gradually progressing to full weight as recommended by your physician.
– Gait Training. This is specific instructions and exercises that will help you restore a normal walking pattern. The focus will be on how your foot and ankle move, and the timing of your steps. You will need to practice on a treadmill at low speed, on level ground, and on steps.
– Reducing Swelling. Swelling is common after an ankle fracture. Treatment may include gentle massage, the use of a compression wrap, ice, or heat, and elevating the affected ankle when it is resting.
– Exercise. An exercise plan will be designing for you so that when your cast you can start to strengthen and regain motion in your injured ankle. It is important to regain the ability to bend your ankle in order to restore full walking ability.
– Restoring Ankle Mobility. This is a form of manual (hands-on) therapy that consists of your physical therapist gently moving your foot and ankle joints and surrounding tissues to reduce stiffness, and increase the ankle’s range of motion.
– Return to Work/Play Activity. As you regain strength and flexibility, your physical therapist will provide activity training specific to your job, leisure and sporting activities.
Return to full participation in sports and work activities generally occurs 12 to 16 weeks after an ankle fracture.
If You Need Surgery
If surgery is required, your injured ankle will be placed in a cast or fracture boot to stabilize it following surgery. Your physical therapist will visit your hospital room once you are medically stable, to help you get up and out of bed. You won’t be allowed to put any weight on the involved ankle for about 6 to 10 weeks – but your physical therapist will teach you how to walk with the use of an assistive device, such as crutches or a walker. You will also need to learn how to go up and down steps and curbs using the device, which will take some getting used to.
When an x-ray confirms that the fracture has healed, your physician will remove your cast and your physical therapist will work with you so that you can safely begin to put weight on your ankle and begin treatment that will help you eventually return to your normal activities.
Can this Injury or Condition be Prevented?
Of course – as with all injuries – there is really nothing you can do to completely prevent them because…accidents happen. However, there are precautions you can take to help decrease your chances of fracturing your ankle.
To reduce your risk of ankle injury:
– Wear appropriate protective gear when participating in sports.
– Train to reach your top strength and fitness levels.
– Wear proper shoes, and replace your athletic shoes regularly.
To reduce your fall risk of ankle injury:/em>
– Remove obstacles and clutter from hallways and rooms in your me.
– Work and play in well-lighted are.
– Use night lights in the home.
– Install grab bars to t/shower areas.
– Add railings to both sides of stairways.
– Maintain strength and fitness throughout your life.
So – there is it, what you need to know about how physical therapy can help with ankle fracture, with or without surgery. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to make sure that you have a physical therapist that you can contact if something does happen. It’s better to be prepared for the possibility, so if you’d like to meet with one of our therapists – or have any additional questions for me – please do not hesitate to leave a comment below. You can also call us at 201-585-7300 or fill out our contact form online.
Stay safe everyone!