Woman With Leg Injury Using Crutches At Home

How Long Does a Fractured Ankle Take to Heal?

“How long will it take me to heal?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions that Physical Therapists receive, regardless of which body part or injury is being treated. The short answer is almost always: it depends!

Every patient and every injury is different; every treatment plan and progression should be individualized depending on the person’s prior level of function and personal goals.

A healing ankle fracture also depends on the fracture type, location, and classification. Things like a different fracture pattern will increase your healing time compared to a smaller, hairline fracture. Multiple fracture sites or multiple bones involved will also increase the healing time frame. Different classifications sometimes will include the growth plate, ankle joint space, or smaller bones that can also improve healing time. So if you’re wondering how long does a fractured ankle take to heal, it all depends on the ankle injury and efforts taken during ankle fracture surgery recovery.

This article will outline a basic diagnosis of an ankle fracture, the goals of Physical Therapy, and the benefits of attending regular Physical Therapy sessions after you’ve been diagnosed with an ankle fracture. 

Can you walk with a fractured ankle?  

Not yet. As with any other injury, it’s best not to exert weight or walk with an injured ankle. These weight-bearing restrictions usually come from their Primary Care Provider (PCP) or an Orthopedic Specialist. Early on, most patients are non-weight bearing (NWB) to protect from the recent fracture. This is advised in order to prevent movement or displacement of the fracture site. It can also be to protect the fracture site from allowing a bony callus to form to start the healing process. 

Non-weight bearing is advised to prevent movement or displacement of the fracture site. If the healing is ‘routine’ or normal, and the fracture does not move and remains stable, the goal is to avoid ankle fracture surgery to re-align the fracture. The weight-bearing restrictions will also depend on the location and nature of the fracture. Patients can be non-weight bearing in a cast, or more often, a boot.

Weight-bearing progressions will be directed by the physician directly overseeing care for the ankle fracture. Advances are usually aligned with soft tissue and fractured bone healing times (muscle, ligaments, and tendons) and progress slowly.  

How long should you stay off a fractured ankle?  

An ankle break or fracture can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, but it’s important to stay off an injured ankle for as long as the physician says. The physician has clear insight into how the ankle fractures are healing through routine x-rays and imaging.   

Between known healing times and individual healing progression, each physician typically has guidelines they follow to help determine when to clear a patient to start partial weight-bearing.   

We also recognize the importance of respecting fracture healing time and allowing the fracture site to heal. That being said, staying off a fractured ankle does not mean bed rest and no mobility.  

Early intervention in physical therapy means pain-free mobility, and choosing the proper treatment to address pain, decreased flexibility, mobility, and muscle activation before a patient can progress to weight-bearing status. There is plenty to work on while off the ankle, allowing that healing to occur. Early intervention and the help of a physical therapist may be beneficial while allowing the fracture site to heal. Once you gain some strength and mobility before you put weight through the leg, this gives you a leg up when cleared to begin weight-bearing. 

Ankle fracture recovery time  

Ankle fractures take up to 8 weeks to heal. It doesn’t mean those entire 8 weeks will be painful, non-weight bearing, completely restricted time. A lot of healing can occur early on with an ankle fracture. Bone tissue regenerates very quickly, laying down new stronger bone around the fracture site.  

What sometimes takes more time is this new boney tissue’s total healing and maturing process in order to be strong enough to withstand increased activity such as bending, squatting, walking, and especially higher-level activities such as running and jumping.    

What is the best treatment for a fractured ankle? 

The best treatment for a fractured ankle is early intervention and physical therapy. It is also important to avoid bed rest and ankle non-use.  

Early physical therapy can involve: 

  • Personalized education 
  • Pain control 
  • Elevation 
  • Gentle stretching 
  • Mobility  
  • Hands-on manual therapy 
  • Strengthening 
  • Balance training 
  • Proprioception 
  • Neuromuscular control 

Once weight-bearing and walking have been initiated, we can continue to treat gait deficits and dysfunction with stairs, squatting, balance, and higher-level activities such as running and jumping after physician clearance. Ankle injuries, whether a completely broken ankle bone or a fracture, do not always have the easiest recoveries. But, following these guidelines and seeking early intervention and treatment can help with the recovery time and process.   

We’re Here for You 

Physical therapy can help speed recovery and ensure a pain-free return to your prior level of function after an ankle fracture. Addressing mobility deficits, weakness, and poor balance as the fracture site heals speeds recovery and allows you to return to your sport or activity faster than without physical therapy. 

Physical Therapy can be a different process for every patient. Every injury and treatment progression looks different depending on patient tolerance, pain levels, and impairments. Every person has their own goals, job tasks, activities or recreation, and life to get back to. That’s where Ivy Rehab can help.  

If you have broken your ankle, our physical therapists are here to help. Visit our website to request an appointment online at the location near you.  

Article By: Nikki Cordes PT, DPT, OCS, SFMA  

Nikki began her physical therapy career five years ago. She graduated from Arcadia University with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy and completed her Orthopedic Board Specialty in Orthopedics. She loves working with the total joint replacement and athletic population and believes in the importance of providing hands-on, individualized, and functional care.  She currently is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist and has participated as an Orthopedic Residency Mentor in the Ivy Rehab HSS Orthopedic Residency Program. Nikki enjoys working with various patients of all ages to reach their functional goals and full recovery. She currently treats patients at Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy in Newton, NJ. 

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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