Typically, it takes anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks for a fractured ankle to heal. The exact duration of your recovery, however, will depend on several factors, including what caused the break in the first place, how severe it was, and how well you are healing. Here’s a closer look at what’s involved with recovery from an ankle fracture.
Non-Surgical Ankle Fracture Recovery
If an X-ray, MRI scan, or other image tests performed show that the break is clean and nearby soft tissues aren’t affected, you may benefit from non-surgical treatments. If this is what’s right for your type of fracture, your recovery may involve:
- Wearing high-top tennis shoes to protect your ankle as it heals
- Using a short leg cast for the same purpose
- Using a cane to minimize weight put on the affected ankle/foot
Depending on the extent of your fracture, you may be advised to avoid putting weight on the affected ankle altogether for about six weeks. Even if you are given the green light to put light pressure on your ankle, your recovery will likely involve periodic ankle X-rays to make sure the fracture is healing properly.
Fracture Recovery After Surgery
If your ankle is unstable or the broken pieces are out of place, surgery may be necessary. Surgery for ankle fractures could involve the placement of plates and screws and other hardware. In some cases, bone graft material is used. When surgical repair is necessary, recovery typically involves:
- Keeping weight off the ankle until the bone has healed
- Regular X-rays to track progress
- Therapeutic exercises to help strengthen supporting ligaments and tendons
Medication and Rehabilitation
With any type of ankle fracture, you may be given pain medication as you recover. If opioids are prescribed, stop taking them as soon as your pain subsides to avoid issues with addiction. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed as well to reduce swelling as the ankle heals. The recovery process may also involve a comprehensive rehabilitation program, which could include:
- Physical therapy
- Home-based exercises you can do between PT sessions
- Strengthening exercises
As you get back to your regular activities, you may be advised to wear a removable brace to prevent a new fracture from developing. After several months, you may be able to resume your normal activities without a supportive brace if image tests show no lingering issues.
Once you’ve recovered from a fractured ankle, it’s also a good idea to take steps to prevent another bone break from occurring. You may be able to do this by doing proper warm-up exercises before running, jogging, or playing sports involving kicking or other repetitive foot and ankle motions. Also, if you feel any sudden or unusual ankle pain, take a rest, apply ice and see if the pain goes away. If it doesn’t, seek medical assistance.