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How long does it take a broken ankle to heal?

How long does it take a broken ankle to heal? I have been in a cast for nearly six weeks after having ORIF and have been cut on both sides of my ankle and have had plates and a lot of screws fixed in. Also suffered dislocation as well which I had to have a plate in also. I am due to go back next week to have cast removed. Have noticed by searching on the internet that alot of people get transferred to a boot. This wasn't mentioned to me. Is this the case. Your help would be very much appreciated.
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First Helper Donnacate
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replied December 10th, 2011
I am week 10 I have a cam boot but i'm still nwb. I see Doc every.3 wks. It is a long recivery and if you smoke ( I do) then it takes 1/3 longer. I'm trying to quit.
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replied December 10th, 2011
Especially eHealthy
In general, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the bones to unite. However, every case is unique, as no two fractures are exactly alike.

Now, this is only for bony union. This does not include the time it take the soft tissues to heal and be rehabilitated. It often takes patients as much as a year before they know their final result.


And, yes, use of nicotine (cigarettes, cigars, pipe, smokeless) significantly impeded fracture healing. Nicotine causes constriction of the small blood vessels. Fractures rely on the tiny blood vessels to form callus (the new bone that heals fractures), so nicotine really cuts down on the blood supply. It is recommended that patients try to quit, at least till the bone is healed and the soft tissues are well on their way.

It is known that nicotine use causes a significantly higher rate of delayed and non unions. In fact, some surgeons will not do elective orthopedic surgery on patients who cannot stop using nicotine. That is how significantly nicotine affects healing.


Surgeons understand that it is difficult to stop, but do try. It is for your own health.

Good luck. Hope everyone heals well and gets on with rehab soon.
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replied August 8th, 2012
Broken ankle recovery time
I broke both tibia and fibula, ball joint and dislocated it outwards. I was advised (after all the casts!) that an upper limb is about 6 weeks and a lower limb (in reality) is more like double. I spent 12 1/2 weeks in cast and it took 5 1/2 months until i could drive. Walked stiffly for ages but 8 months on its good day / bad day. The consultant said the year following was vital to recovery after that you are what you are...
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replied August 27th, 2012
I fractured and dislocated on October 24th, 2010 and had a temporary pinning surgery the day after the accident. Took 4 weeks with a hard cast being changed every week until the swelling came down enough that the surgeons would operate. Dislocation was so bad that when I saw the x-ray each week you could see the temp pins bending because the bones continued to try to dislocate. Surgery the day before Thanksgiving in 2010 and back in hard cast until late January when I was allowed to be out of the cast and in a walking boot and into PT. I was first allowed 60% weight bearing and then increased to 80% and then had a second surgery to change out long screws to shorter ones so that they didn't break off when I went to full weight bearing. Finally at mid to late February I was allowed to be out of the boot and at full weight bearing. When I took that first walk in the boot using the crutches I thought I would die - the ankle felt like it was still broken. I used to tell the PT people that I never believed that I would walk normally again. When I came out of the boot the only shoes I could wear were size 12 1/2 walking sneakers. This October, 2012 will be a full two years post injury and I have reached a point where many days when I walk you would never know that I broke it. But I am able to predict the weather - LOL! When the barometric pressure changes the ankle will kill me and stiffen up. It is still bigger than the other and probably always will be but the shoe size is back to normal although I have to be careful on wear the shoe hits me on the side as it will irritate the ankle. I am able to wear kitten heals or wedges again as long as the arch support is really, really good but will never be able to wear high heels again. Flats and flip flops are really a no, no unless it is for a very short period of time. I went to bed for over a year with an ice pack wrapped around the ankle every night. I no longer do that unless the pain is excrutiating. Some days are better than others - from no pain, just a feeling of weirdness probably from the hardware to bad pain and stiffness. Some days the pain goes from my toes up to my hip and the hip on the non injured leg will hurt too because the pain makes me shift weight to that leg. I will get arthritis in the injured ankle - not if but when as it will happen if it is not already happening. The surgeons have discussed ankle replacement if the arthritis gets so bad that I can't walk or the pain is so bad I can't stand it but I hope that option is a LONG way off. I will never be the same and will have to live with some level of pain for the rest of my life but given a different set of circumstances or a different surgeon I may not be walking at all or not walking anywhere as well as I am now. I tell everyone who has broken an ankle and asks me "How long" that it is individual and is a day at a time but you will get better.
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replied May 14th, 2013
My ankle fracture recovery sucess story
I am 4-1/2 months into recovery from dislocation and trameleor fracture of my ankle (broke in three places plus some bone fragments that couldn't be pinned back in), and have a plate and 10 pins holding it all together. And I am here to tell everyone who will listen how HUGE a difference it made in my recovery to do everything possible to help with the healing, by way of general health habits, and being really diligent about rehab exercises. Before I broke my ankle, I was a daily walker (2-4 miles) and practiced Bikram hot yoga a couple of days a week. After, While I was waiting to be able to start physical therapy, I received acupuncture treatment to stimulate the flow of energy in that leg, and did what exercise I could do that was not weight bearing. At 2 months, I started back to Yoga classes, while still in the boot, doing some of the poses with my walker, until I could start bearing weight again, and also did and hour a day of the ankle-strengthening exercises my PT prescribed, and walked when I could begin to. I am now walking my pre-break distances and speed (fast!) without pain and without a limp, and back to Bikram yoga doing all the poses, including all the ones that require standing on one leg...on both sides. In short, Back to pretty much normal, and in half the average/usual time it takes, I am sure as a result of the acupuncture, PT, yoga and good nutrition. and by the way, I turn 60 next month.
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replied May 14th, 2013
Hi Donnacate,

This is good to hear, I am 28 and just suffered a fractured fibula as well. I had a displaced break which needed surgery. This was three weeks ago and surgery was two weeks ago.

I was told 6-8 weeks for recovery and no PT by my ortho. I find this hard to believe considering all the stories I've read about how essential PT is. I am planning on dong stretches and range of motion exercises during my recovery (if the doctor says it's okay) which will hopefully allow me to at least be able to walk as soon as my bones have healed.

Thank you for your story, I will definitely look into doing some yoga when I am in my air cast.
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replied May 14th, 2013
I'm glad to know my story was helpful! & what your ortho said about no PT for 8 weeks (if that's what he/she meant) is consistent with what mine said, and what I did: i.e. no major movement of, or weight on, the broken places for that long, while the bones themselves (and the surgery site!) were knitting. My ortho (who is about 35, has broken both his ankles though you would never know, and is very fit himself and big on exercise) said that he used to urge patients to start doing gentle range of motion exercises earlier than 8 weeks, but found that sometimes that re-opened the surgery site; that it really does take a long time for the surgery site itself to heal thoroughly. So I didn't really do a thing with that ankle itself except wiggle my toes a little until he gave me the okay at 8 weeks to start formal PT, directed by a physical therapist. Meanwhile, though, I found that there was a LOT of exercise I could do, even without moving the ankle or putting weight on it: floor yoga, upper-body weight work & stretch bands (like it sounds like you are doing) and moving around with crutches or walker (mostly walker; I hated crutches because they always seemed so precarious, and I did NOT want to land on that foot inadvertently). Equally important was to spend plenty of time sitting around with the leg up, to keep the swelling down, and because it takes a lot of energy to heal. But once I did get the okay for PT, I really went for it. I remember that it felt VERY weird and painful to actually step on that foot again for the first time after I got the okay to experiment with walking, but progress was quick from "eek" to "cool!". I do have to say that I think the Bikram yoga sequence (and walking) has done the most to restore my strength, balance and range of motion. Anyway, sounds like your instructions are the same as mine were; sending best wishes!
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replied May 14th, 2013
So I just got back from my ortho. He says I can walk in 4 more weeks (6 weeks from the surgery, 7 from the break). He gave me a few light PT exercises to do and said I can get more aggressive with the PT as I heal.

He did a fantastic job with the surgery. When the splint came off, there was almost no swelling left and virtually no bruising (2 weeks).

He gave me a brace to wear, but said I don't really need it and that it would take a similar fall to do any harm to my leg again.
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replied July 10th, 2013
I fractured my left ankle in 2 places about a month ago now, The night I did it, they x-rayed me and I was told nothing broken, it was only 2 days later that I decided to go back to hospital because I was in agony and found out it was actually fractured. They put me in a cast, no crutches as I had a walking shoe on it. I went back 2 weeks later because I found out I was suffering with a allergic reaction to the cast, so now I have a splint on with ice pack, I can removed the splint at times. I have not been told anything except to rest it. I am suffering with swollen ankle where I cant fit any shoes on, still in agony, I have a appointment to see the doctor on the 18th of this month ( July) to find out if it has recovered which I know it as not, I have never had a fracture before, so I do not know what the procedure is. I so what my life back to normal .. I probably made it worse with walking on it, but nobody as told me anything . I keep reading online about recovery times, and this is when I came across your post/forum. If anyone can give me any advice, I would be very appreciated and say a big Thank you in advance.
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replied July 25th, 2013
I broke my ankle in 2 places on a Thursday while visiting relatives in Florida. I just thought it was a bad sprain, and continued to walk / limp on it for the next 4 days. By the time I was ready to fly home, I called the airline and told them I could not walk. I was wheeled through 3 airports to get home, (it's VERY bad to fly with broken bones due to the air pressure in the plane), drove myself home, took some aspirin and went to bed. The next day I went immediately to the emergency room where they x-rayed the foot and told me about the fractures. They then soft-casted it, gave me a walker (couldn't do crutches), and referred me to an ortho surgeon. I was put into a (non-walking) cast for 4 weeks, then was given a 'walking boot', but still needed the walker for another 3 weeks. I'm now on the first day of walking on my own. I'm doing PT, and taking it slowly. I'm returning to work in a few days with a light brace on the ankle, and moving slowly without apology. I feel that patience and doctor's orders are crucial to repair the ankle, and those who are not going to see a doctor or do what the doctor says will permanently damage their mobility potentially for the rest of their lives. It has been a horrible experience and I experienced nausea every day from the dull throb of the break.
My advice to anyone is: 1). Don't ignore the break, 2). Follow the doctor's orders to the T, or as much as you can 3). Have tons and tons of patience, 4). Don't 'power through' anything that hurts unless it's the PT, and then don't baby you're foot -- challenge it. I'm a little nervous and scared to go back to work, but I tell myself that the biggest hurdles are over.
Best wishes to everyone who's gone through this ordeal. I told my doctor that this ankle break is the worst, and he laughed and told me shoulder breaks are pretty bad, too. TAKE GOOD CARE of your mobility, as it's no joke of the permanent damage you can do to your ability to stand and walk if you don't take care of this properly.
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Tags: ankle, ankle cast
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