Broken Ankle: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation

Your Care Instructions

Front view of the bones of the ankle

An ankle may break (fracture) during sports, a fall, or a car crash. Fractures can range from a small, hairline crack, to a bone or bones broken into two or more pieces. Your treatment depends on how bad the break is.

Your doctor may have put your ankle in a splint or cast to allow it to heal or to keep it stable until you see another doctor. It may take weeks or months for your ankle to heal. You can help your ankle heal with some care at home.

You heal best when you take good care of yourself. Eat a variety of healthy foods, and don't smoke.

You may have had a sedative to help you relax. You may be unsteady after having sedation. It can take a few hours for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects of sedation include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or tired.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If the doctor gave you a sedative:
    • For 24 hours, don't do anything that requires attention to detail. It takes time for the medicine's effects to completely wear off.
    • For your safety, do not drive or operate any machinery that could be dangerous. Wait until the medicine wears off and you can think clearly and react easily.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your ankle for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your cast or splint. Keep your cast or splint dry.
  • Follow the cast care instructions your doctor gives you. If you have a splint, do not take it off unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Prop up your leg on pillows in the first few days after the injury. Keep the ankle higher than the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Do not put weight on your ankle unless your doctor tells you to. Use crutches to walk.
  • Follow instructions for exercises to keep your leg strong.
  • Wiggle your toes often to reduce swelling and stiffness.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • You have increased or severe pain.
  • Your foot is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your toes.
  • Your cast or splint feels too tight.
  • You cannot move your toes.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • The skin under your cast or splint is burning or stinging.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter P763 in the search box to learn more about "Broken Ankle: Care Instructions".