Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How can you tell if I sprained or twisted my ankle?"
Yesterday I came in after it snowed and slipped and I woke up and I can't move my ankle from side to side but I can point it straight.
Ankle sprains are very common after minor trauma like you describe, and can result in a wide range of symptoms (pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty bearing weight, difficulty moving the ankle, et cetera). The most important determination to make after such an injury is whether or not the ankle is "sprained" (damage to the ligaments, or structures that hold bones together) or fractured (one or more of the bones in the ankle are broken), as this determines how the injury is treated. So it is important to speak with your physician. Fractures are usually treated with immobilization and restricted weight bearing, whereas ankle sprains are treated symptomatically with anti-inflammatory medications and early functional rehabilitation. If your symptoms are bothersome in the meantime, it is appropriate to use ice and elevation of the injured extremity in the treatment of either a fracture or a sprain. Both sprains and fractures can produce similar symptoms and it is very difficult to determine which has occurred without an x-ray. There are guidelines that physicians use to determine when an x-rays is necessary (the most widely used system is the "Ottowa ankle rules"), but these guidelines are best applied by doctors who are trained in proper physical examination. If necessary, x-rays can typically be performed in primary care offices or urgent care centers, and results are available almost immediately. Again, please speak with your physician.
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