No one should wish the pain and inconvenience of a broken ankle on anyone, even their worst enemy. Whether it is from a fall, accident or sports injury, a broken ankle is incredibly painful and there is a long road to full recovery.
From our downtown Vancouver treatment centre, we’ve helped many people heal from ankle injuries. Broken ankles occur more often in men under 50 years old and then the majority switches to women in the 50+ crowd. They happen when one or any combination of the three bones that comprise the ankle joint — the talus bone of the foot, the tibia (shin bone), and fibula of the leg — are either fractured or broken.
Most people know right away when there has been an event traumatic enough to cause a fracture or a break of the ankle. There is extreme pain, loss of movement and the inability to bear weight on the foot. Whether or not a person will need surgery after the event depends on severity, but either way, they will most likely need physiotherapy to rehabilitate the ankle.
When to start physiotherapy after a broken ankle depends on the seriousness of the injury. If a person has undergone surgery to realign the bones, they will most often then have the ankle set in a cast and will be given a walking aid, as the injury can’t bear weight for six to ten weeks. When this is the case, a physiotherapist will be called upon to help a patient learn to function with the walking aid (usually crutches). The physiotherapist will teach the injured person how to stand up from a seated position, how to get in and out of a vehicle, and how to walk up and down stairs.
The next step of physiotherapy happens once the ankle has been set and is somewhat healed, normally six to ten weeks after the injury. Then the patient will begin to attend appointments with a physiotherapist to begin the rehabilitation process.
To strengthen the ankle and eventually rebuild the surrounding muscle to its post-break capacity, the injured party should be committed to following the advice of the physiotherapist and carrying out the exercises assigned.
At the first appointment, a physiotherapist will carefully examine the condition of the injury and form a plan. They will look at:
- Gait. This is an assessment of the way a person walks after the injury, for example how much they are limping, assess the limitations and formulate a treatment plan to address them.
- Scar tissue. If a person underwent surgery, there will be a scar (or scars) from the incision, as well as from sprains and strains of the injury. A physiotherapist can provide and teach massage techniques to encourage healing and increase the range of motion around the scar tissue.
- Strength. After spending weeks without any pressure or use, the ankle will have lost some of its strength, therefore how much weight it can support will need to be assessed.
- Pain. Even though the healing is well on its way, there still may be feelings of pain as the injury continues to heal. If there is shooting pain or discomfort, a physiotherapist will assess what to do to address it.
- Range of motion. An ankle’s full range of motion will be affected by a break or fracture and it is important to regain that function to be able to return to normal activity.
Once the assessment is done, a physiotherapist will determine an exercise plan to strengthen the muscles and regain the lost range of motion in the joint, both of which are incredibly important in order for an ankle to return to its full abilities. A physiotherapist might also recommend exercises for the knee and hip, which may have been affected during the healing process when the ankle was in a cast.
The physiotherapist may also work with a patient on gait training, weight and resistance exercises, stretching and flexibility, and so on. As mentioned, it is paramount that the injured party is committed to performing the assigned exercises on a regular basis at home and between appointments.
Physiotherapy is a vital step in regaining strength and mobility after a broken ankle or fracture. If you’ve undergone a trauma that has led to a break or fracture and are looking for a qualified, experienced physiotherapist in downtown Vancouver to ensure that you can return to your way of life, call us for an appointment today.