Can You Walk on a Hairline Ankle Fracture?

A NYC orthopedic doctor bandages a fractured ankle

Hairline ankle fractures get worse with added stress

There is no such thing as a "minor" bone fracture. And when it comes to your ankle, any damage has the potential to seriously limit your ability to walk, run, drive, or otherwise get around.

A hairline ankle fracture is a big injury with a small-sounding name that must be treated by a doctor or orthopedic surgeon to properly heal.

This is not an injury that will go away on its own. If left untreated, a hairline fracture on your ankle can develop into a larger bone break, chronic pain, cartilage damage, arthritis, or a permanent disability that limits your mobility.

If you suspect that you have a hairline ankle fracture or are otherwise experiencing pain, do not put additional strain on your ankle. Contact us or use our online booking system to schedule an appointment with Island Musculoskeletal Care MD, PC. Our doctors can conduct a physical examination, then offer a diagnosis and course for treatment.

What is a hairline ankle fracture?

A hairline or "stress" fracture to your ankle is a small crack or bruise within the bones that make up your ankle joint.

Typically, hairline ankle fractures occur at the end(s) of your leg bones where they connect with the talus to form the ankle joint. The leg bone ends are known as the medial malleolus of the tibia, or shin bone, and the lateral malleolus of the fibula. If both bones are damaged, you may have a hairline bimalleolar ankle fracture.

What causes hairline ankle fractures?

Activities that involve repetitive stress on the foot and ankle are frequently associated with hairline ankle fractures. The injury is often caused by running, jumping, overuse, disease, slip-and-fall, or a work accident.

Who is most at risk for a hairline ankle fracture?

Athletes and people who work on their feet all day are prone to developing hairline ankle fractures. High-impact activities that may lead to a fracture include dance, track and field, baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and gymnastics, among other things.

Others at a higher risk for developing an ankle bone fracture are people who have an existing foot problem, like high or rigid arches; a bone condition, like osteoporosis; or have had previous hairline fractures.

There are outside factors that can increase your risk of a hairline ankle fracture, too, such as certain medications, improper sports equipment, changing playing surfaces, or a lack of nutrients like vitamin D.

Should you walk on a hairline ankle fracture?

No. Unfortunately, many people go about their normal routines while having hairline ankle fractures because they can't feel the injury. A small fracture might not hurt at first, or maybe the pain isn't enough to prompt you to see a doctor right away. To heal properly, a bone fracture must be isolated from stress. Walking on an ankle with a hairline fracture will complicate healing. It may make the break bigger and require more intensive treatment to heal.

What are the symptoms of a hairline ankle fracture?

This type of injury can be painful, even though you may not feel it right away. Sometimes, pain from a hairline ankle fracture develops over time.

Symptoms of a hairline ankle fracture include:

  • Swelling
  • Dull pain
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising

How are hairline ankle fractures diagnosed?

Diagnosing a hairline ankle fracture often begins with a physical examination by an orthopedic doctor. The doctor will inspect the injured area and, likely, apply gentle pressure to see the effect. The doctor may order an MRI, bone scan, or X-ray to better understand the extent of your injury.

Do I need to see a doctor for a hairline ankle fracture?

Yes. Treating a hairline ankle fracture often begins with RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You may be advised to take over-the-counter pain medication like aspirin or ibuprofen. Crutches or a cast may also be necessary to make sure the bone properly heals. If the hairline fracture develops into a larger break, surgery may be necessary to remove damage and reset the bone.

The orthopedic doctors and surgeons at Island Musculoskeletal Care MD, PC are here to help you find relief from your pain and increase your mobility. Our medical professionals serve the greater New York City and Long Island area, and our physicians are authorized by the NYS Workers' Compensation Board to treat work injuries. That means we can fill out all the required forms, provide all the necessary documents, and let you focus on your recovery while we help you move your claim forward.

If you suspect you have a hairline ankle fracture or are otherwise experiencing ankle or foot pain, do not let the situation get worse. Contact us online or call 1-888-BONE-DOC (266-3362). Our doctors can often see you on the same day at one of our seven New York offices.

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