Sprain Vs. Fracture – Ways to tell whether it is a broken bone

Sprain Vs. Fracture – Ways to tell whether it is a broken bone


If you suffer an injury and experience pain in a certain part of your body, it can be difficult to determine on your own whether it is a sprain or a fracture. You may have difficulty determining if it is fractured (broken) or sprained. This is normal as symptoms of both the conditions overlap with each other. However, generally, a fracture tends to be more painful compared to a sprain, and the pain may last longer.

You may need have to see a doctor and get an X-ray done to determine if you have a broken bone or sprain . An X-ray will show if it is sprain or fracture thus help your doctor determine the treatment plan

What is a fracture?

Simply put, fractures are broken bones. And, broken bones come with one or more of the following telltale signs:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Deformity (of the affected part)
  • A crunching sound or sensation
  • Numbness or tingling (This can happen with sprains, too. But these feelings often indicate a more significant injury that a doctor should look at at the earliest )
  • Trouble bearing weight on the affected body part (for instance, If you cannot walk on your leg, it is more likely a fracture)
  • Tenderness when you push on the bone

What is a sprain?

A sprain is a ligament injury. Ligaments are soft tissues that connect two (or more) bones at a joint, such as the ankle, knee or elbow. While the signs of a sprain are often less obvious than fracture symptoms, there is some overlap:

  • Pain and swelling
  • Tenderness in your soft tissue

How to handle a sprain:

You can give your injury 3 days to improve if:

  • There is bearable pain
  • You can normally move the injured joint
  • Nothing is out of alignment

RICE it!

If you are injured, follow the RICE acronym for the first 24 – 48 hours to give yourself some relief:

  • Rest: Reduce or stop activities that use or put pressure on the injured region
  • Ice: Apply ice on the injury as soon as you can (General rule is to put ice or cold pack 4 – 8 times in a day for 20 minutes)
  • Compression: Wrap-up the injury in an elastic bandage to decrease the swelling
  • Elevation: Rest the injured area on a pillow (higher than your heart)

If the swelling gets better and it is less tender within a couple of days, you are most likely OK. But if it does not get better within 2-4 days, then you should see a doctor.”

When in doubt, get the injury checked out

When it comes to sprains, some adults can tough it out, but kids are not adults. If kids are injured, get them checked out as soon as possible. Kids can injure something called the growth plate, which can affect how they grow over time.

What type of doctor should you see?

Any Ortho related doctors who can provide a basic evaluation and take an X-ray. Medical facilities that provide these services include:

  • Nursing homes
  • Primary healthcare centres
  • Hospitals with emergency services

The bottom Line

So, your injuries (including and especially those of your children), should be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Any child who is still growing should be evaluated to make sure they do not have a fracture. And, the only way to rule one out is to get an X-ray.

You have to see a doctor immediately if the injury is accompanied by a significant cut or other wound. The wound may need to be addressed separately. It also may need to be treated more aggressively with antibiotics and cleaning.