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How do I Treat a Dislocated Ankle?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An ankle dislocation occurs when the joint shifts out of its normal alignment. The talus bone in the foot separates from the tibia in the leg, which can put enough strain on nearby ligaments to cause tearing. Doctors strongly suggest that a person who experiences intense ankle pain and swelling visit an emergency room as soon as possible so specialists can properly diagnose and treat a dislocated ankle. A doctor can attempt to manually set the joint back into alignment, place a wrap or cast on the ankle, and explain home-care procedures.

Most dislocations are the result of acute ankle injuries from sudden falls or twists. A dislocation is usually easy to recognize, as the joint swells immediately and the foot appears to be misaligned from the rest of the leg. Professional medical care is necessary to properly treat a dislocated ankle. Before medical help is available, an individual should immobilize the joint as best as possible and avoid putting any pressure on the foot.

Upon admittance into the hospital, a patient is usually given oral painkillers or a local anesthetic to lesson symptoms. After inspecting the joint, the doctor applies pressure at specific points to move the ankle back into its correct place. After the setting procedure, x-rays and computerized tomography scans are taken to reveal the extent of damage. In most cases, the doctor will decide to treat the ankle by putting it in a hard cast, splint, or wrap. Complications such as torn ligaments or pinched nerves often require surgery to prevent long-term problems.

An emergency room physician or osteopathic surgeon can help a patient learn how to treat a dislocated ankle at home during the recovery phase. Most patients are fitted with crutches and shown how to use them properly before leaving the hospital. An individual is usually prescribed pain medication and told to get as much rest as possible. If the physician says a splint can be removed, the patient can soak the ankle in a soothing warm bath and apply an ice pack several times a day to reduce swelling.

During the healing phase, a patient is usually instructed to attend regular checkups with his or her doctor to monitor progress. The physician asks about symptoms and takes x-rays to see if bones are mending properly. If a person is careful to treat a dislocated ankle according to his or her doctor's recommendations, there is a good chance that he or she will be able to enjoy physical activity again in as little as four months.

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Discussion Comments

By anon966636 — On Aug 21, 2014

I dislocated my ankle and went to work the same day. I duct taped it and worked all day. I took a week off work after that because it was swollen as hell, to let it heal. Now it only hurts if I have to stand in place all day in one spot working, but if I don't do that, it's fine on a normal workday where I can move around and not have to stand in one spot.

Doctors aren't worth the money. It's a little known secret. Don't tell anyone I told you.

By anon343242 — On Jul 28, 2013

I just got home with a relocated ankle in a huge cast. It really hurts. Yes, looking down and seeing your foot at a 90 degree angle to your leg is tough. I was in the woods cutting trees and had to crawl 100 feet to an open field and pull myself up into my 4x4 and drive to the hospital. It was super tough and I don't ever want to do it again.

By anon313042 — On Jan 10, 2013

I dislocated a bone in my ankle and went to the ER. I thought it was a bad sprain. They took an X-ray and gave me an air cast. About a month or so later, when I was finally able to walk with only minor pain, I went to a chiropractor who told me it was misaligned. He popped it back into place and the swelling went down significantly by the next day, but unfortunately I tripped a week later and the damn thing popped out of place again.

It has since been set thrice more but keeps popping out when I trip or misstep or jump. I wish I never fell down the spiral stair case in the first place.

By anon297014 — On Oct 14, 2012

I fell from a flight of eight steps and my right ankle was caught in the railway. My ankle was dislocated and it's been three weeks. I have been in a cast and moving around with the help of crutches.

However the pain was one that will be embedded in my mind for life. The tablets helped me tremendously. I am still counting down my days to go take off my cast and to start my therapy so that i will be able to walk again. --BabyCakes

By kylee07drg — On Aug 10, 2012

@JackWhack – I dislocated my ankle in high school, and yes, the pain is excruciating. I think the worst part was having to stay in bed for several days and having to use crutches for months, though.

The pain pills were my favorite part of my dislocated ankle recovery process. When I took one, I felt as if nothing were wrong in my life. I also didn't feel any pain in my ankle, which was the point.

However, I hated hobbling around the school halls on crutches. The hallways were crowded, and I kept bumping into people.

By JackWhack — On Aug 09, 2012

This sounds incredibly painful! I can't imagine looking down and seeing that my foot was out of line with my leg!

I have had ankle sprains before, and they hurt pretty badly. Fortunately, I've never had one serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor or the use of crutches. The pain was pretty intense though, so I know that a dislocated ankle would have to cause unbearable pain.

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