Healthy You - Every Day

What You Need to Know About Ankle Dislocation

Learn the symptoms and your path to healing

Dislocated ankles are a common ankle injury. Learn the symptoms and your path to healing.

An ankle dislocation is a severe injury that occurs when there is an abnormal separation between the bones of your ankle joint. Normally a set of very strong ligaments hold all the bones of your ankle tightly in place. “But a serious injury can pull or tear these ligaments out of place, creating an abnormal space between one or more of the bones,” says orthopedic surgeon Scott Sauer, MD, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute. “Sports injuries and car accidents are often to blame.”

Ankle dislocations can occur with or without a break in one or more of the ankle bones. “In most cases, the injury pushes the talus bone in your foot behind the other ankle bones,” says orthopedic surgeon John Stapleton, DPM, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute. “It also may be pushed to either side, to the front or upward.”

Are you at risk?

Ankle dislocations can happen to people of all ages. You may be at greater risk if:

  • You engage in a lot of athletic activities
  • You’ve had an ankle sprain, fracture or dislocation in the past
  • Your ankle has been abnormal since birth
  • You have a condition that makes your ligaments loose, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • You smoke cigarettes or are obese

Know the symptoms

With an ankle injury, you may have symptoms such as:

  • Immediate, severe pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Soreness to the touch
“If you think you have dislocated your ankle, visit an orthopedic specialist.” - Scott Sauer, MD
  • Inability to put weight on your foot
  • Trouble moving your ankle
  • A deformed look to your ankle
  • A bone that pokes through your skin

“If you think you have dislocated your ankle, visit an orthopedic specialist,” Sauer says. “They will give you a physical exam and check you for other injuries.” You will need X-rays of your leg, ankle and foot to look for broken bones. You also may need a CT scan or an MRI so your doctor can see your injury with more detail.

The path to healing

Treatment may vary depending on the type of dislocation and any other injuries, but may include:

  • Pain medicines
  • Closed reduction – a doctor moving your bones back into place without surgery
  • Keeping your ankle elevated and using cold packs
  • A splint to hold your ankle in place at first
  • A cast or boot to hold your ankle once the swelling goes down

“You might need surgery to put your bones back in place so they can heal correctly,” Stapleton says. Afterward, you will need physical therapy to help you restore and keep your range of motion and strength. You will likely need to use crutches or a cane for a few months. Your doctor or physical therapist will let you know when you can go back to normal activities.

Foot and Ankle Care

Have a foot or ankle injury?

From general podiatry to complex ankle reconstruction, our team of orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists and physical therapists at Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute are here to help you get back on your feet and regain the lifestyle that you want.

Explore More Articles