Sprain vs Fracture: What’s the Difference?

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Sprains and fractures are some of the most common injuries treated in emergency rooms today. Both can be very painful but not necessarily dictate a trip to the hospital. Do you know the difference between a sprain vs fracture?

Read further to learn how you can tell if you have a sprain or fracture. When you know the difference, you’ll be better prepared to treat your injuries and regain your optimal health.

What is a Fracture?

A fracture is a break in a bone. When you have a broken ankle, for example, your talus bone has been fractured. Fractures to other leg bones such as the fibula or shinbone may also contribute to your broken foot.

There are many different types of fractures. The main categories of these fractures include:

  • Displaced Fracture:  A displaced fracture occurs when the edges of two bones break and move away from each other.
  • Non-displaced Fracture: When a non-displaced fracture occurs, the bones are cracked, but still aligned.
  • Open Fracture: An open fracture is when a bone breaks and punctures the skin.
  • Closed Fracture:  This fracture is similar to an open fracture. However, when the bone breaks, the skin isn’t punctured.

Symptoms to look for if you think you have fractured a bone include:

  • Increased swelling and pain over the top of a bone.
  • Severe pain when you apply pressure or move the limb
  • Incapable of using the injured limb
  • Bone punctures through the skin.
  • What is a Sprain?

What is a Sprain?

Sprains occur when the tendons and ligaments surrounding a bone are overstretched. When you have a twisted ankle, for example, the ligaments that hold your ankle bones together have been overturned and stretched too far. It’s very common to suffer a sprain when you do vigorous exercise like hiking or running.

Sometimes people confuse a sprain with a strain. A strain happens when you stretch or tear muscles and tendons as well. The difference between a sprain vs strain is that sprains will only occur around those areas of your body that have a joint such as your elbow or knee.

Sprain vs Fracture

It can be difficult to know the difference between a sprain vs fracture. Here are the best ways to know the difference:

Is it a Sprain?

If the pain and swelling is located in the ligaments surrounding your bone (not over the bone) then it’s likely you have a sprain. If you can walk on the injured area there is a high chance you have a sprain.

Is it a Fracture?

If your pain is pinpointed over the top of your bone, then you probably have a fracture. If you can’t walk on the injured area because it won’t hold your weight, then it’s likely you fractured your bone. When this happens, seek help as soon as you can.

When Should You Get Medical Help?

If you’ve been in an accident and not sure if you’ve suffered a sprain vs fracture, try these few tests. Check to see if you have any severe swelling over the top of a bone. If you can’t take five steps without crippling pain, then you have a fracture, and need to get medical help immediately.

To learn more about sprains and fractures, don’t forget to check our blog for more helpful advice. You can always come see us at Thibodaux Regional Urgent Care – Houma. We’ll bring you back to your good health in no time.

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