Read below about bruised ankle, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your bruised ankle from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Bruised Ankle Symptoms

A bruise (also known as a contusion) occurs when the small blood vessels in an area of the body are damaged by trauma. This causes blood to seep into the surrounding tissues, causing the red to blue-black color often associated with bruises. A bruise will stay visible until the blood is either absorbed by the surrounding tissue or cleared by the immune system.

In the case of a bruised ankle, it is important to be able to differentiate between a sprain and a more severe injury (like a fracture), since both can result in bruising.

Symptoms associated with a sprained ankle include:

Symptoms associated with a more severe ankle injury include the symptoms above as well as:

If you experience a severe ankle injury, seek medical attention immediately. Ankle sprains also require timely medical attention, as they can worsen into a more severe injury.

Bruised Ankle Causes Overview

The ankle is composed of four distinct bones (the tibia, fibula, talus and calcaneus) that come together to form joints that allow the ankle to move in different planes – up and down (dorsiflexion and plantarflexion) as well as inwards and outwards (inversion and eversion).

The ankle has lateral and medial ligaments that work to provide stability. These are the anterior inferior tibial ligament, posterior inferior tibial ligament, anterior talofibular ligament, posterior talofibular ligament and calcaneofibular ligament. The ligaments prevent the ankle from excessive inversion and eversion; however, they are very susceptible to sprain and injury.

See this image for an easy-to-understand visual of the ankle. Trauma that causes tearing, stretching, or breaking of these ankle components can result in bruised ankle symptoms.

Trauma

Trauma is the main culprit for bruised ankle symptoms. As discussed above, trauma can include a sprain or a more severe injury such as a fracture.

  • Sprain: A sprain is defined by the stretching or tearing of ligaments. The ankle has multiple ligaments that can become stretched or torn during activities such as running, jumping, or falling, making sprains very common in sports activities.
  • Fracture: A fracture is a broken bone. When a bone in the ankle breaks, it causes injury to any surrounding ligaments, arteries and tissues resulting in bruising and immediate swelling. Fractures are also very common among sports injuries but can also occur in older patients with weakened bones.

5 Potential Bruised Ankle Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Broken Ankle

    An ankle fracture is a break in 1 or more ankle bones.

    Depending on the type of fracture, recovery may take up to a year.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    difficulty walking, constant ankle pain, swollen ankle, pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with broken ankle:
    pain in one ankle, swollen ankle, ankle pain from an injury, constant ankle pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  2. 2.Ankle Sprain

    Ankle ligaments, which connect bones to one another, stabilize the ankle joint. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments caused by a twisting motion of the joint.

    An uncomplicated ankle sprain should improve in 3-6 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury, swollen ankle, bruised ankle, ankle twisting
    Symptoms that always occur with ankle sprain:
    pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

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  3. 3.Ankle Bruise

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the ankle are common, often due to minor injury.

    Bruises tend to begin healing within one week.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant ankle pain, pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury, recent ankle injury, swollen ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with ankle bruise:
    ankle pain from an injury, recent ankle injury, constant ankle pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Fracture of the Talus

    A talus fracture is a break in one of the bones in the ankle called the "talus." This type of injury oftens occurs during a high-energy event, such as a car accident or fall.

    Recovery may take up to 3 months.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one foot, swollen ankle, severe foot pain, pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with fracture of the talus:
    pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  5. 5.Severe Ankle Injury Needing Imaging

    An ankle fracture is a break in 1 or more ankle bones. Having neurovascular compromise means that the fracture was so severe that blood flow to the toes and nerves of the foot was interrupted.

    Depending on the severity of the fracture, recovery may take up to a year.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    tingling foot, toe numbness, constant ankle pain, cold toe, pain in one ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with severe ankle injury needing imaging:
    bruised ankle, toe numbness, pain in one ankle, pain when pressing on the ankle bone, swollen ankle, ankle pain from an injury, constant ankle pain
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

Bruised Ankle Treatments and Relief

Bruising related to an ankle sprain can often be treated at home following the advice of your doctor.

The RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) mnemonic device is an often-used guide for treating a bruised ankle.

  • Rest: Try to stay off your ankle as much as possible. Your doctor may also suggest crutches.
  • Ice: Put an ice pack on your ankle or place your ankle in ice water every 15 minutes in order to reduce any swelling.
  • Compression: Protect your ankle from unnecessary movement by using a stretchy bandage or compression wrap with a protective brace. Compression like this can also help with swelling.
  • Elevation: Raising your ankle above the level of your heart can also help reduce swelling and bruising.

Your doctor may also prescribe over-the-counter pain relief medications such as ibuprofen or other NSAIDs. These medications are designed to combat pain and swelling.

In order to stop ankle injuries from happening in the first place, try these tips and suggestions to prevent sprains and fractures.

  • Strengthen and Stretch: Because weak muscles and mechanical issues are a leading cause of ankle pain and injury, it is important to both strengthen the major muscles of the legs such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves and stretch them in order to relieve tightness. Balance and stability are key in ensuring that your ankle and its connecting muscles work together effectively.
  • Exercise correctly: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce extra pressure and stress on the ankles, but it is important to use correct form and technique during exercise as well.

In the case of an ankle fracture, your doctor may also suggest the following:

  • Physical Therapy: Your doctor may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore range of motion, strength and stability to your ankle.
  • Surgery: If at-home remedies and medicinal options from your doctor do not provide relief, you and your doctor may look into surgical options to better strengthen your ankle.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Bruised Ankle

  • Q.How would you explain your ankle pain?
  • Q.Did you recently injure your ankle?
  • Q.Did you just suffer from a high impact injury (e.g., a fall, collision, accident or sports trauma)?
  • Q.Are you having any difficulty walking?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our bruised ankle symptom checker to find out more.

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Bruised Ankle Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced bruised ankle have also experienced:

    • 18% Swollen Ankle
    • 11% Pain in One Ankle
    • 11% Ankle Pain
  • People who have experienced bruised ankle had symptoms persist for:

    • 43% Less Than a Week
    • 20% Less Than a Day
    • 16% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced bruised ankle were most often matched with:

    • 25% Ankle Sprain
    • 14% Ankle Bruise
    • 12% Broken Ankle
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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