How to Tell Between a Sprain and a Fracture

by | Oct 17, 2016 | Sports Injuries

It can be hard to tell identical twins apart, especially if you don’t know them well. Even similar-looking pets can be easy to mix up if you aren’t familiar with them. People, places, and things that are similar can be easy to confuse until you get a closer look at the differences, even if they aren’t the same at all. The same can be true for some common lower limb injuries, like sprains and fractures. Although these injuries are actually quite different, they can be hard to tell apart from the outside, especially when they first happen.

So what exactly are sprains and fractures?

A sprain is an injury to ligaments. These connectors help attach bones together. A sprain is an injury that suddenly and forcibly stretches ligaments around a joint past their normal range of flexibility, possibly tearing them. This leaves them loose and painful, making the injured joint unstable. The most common sprain people think about is usually the ankle, but you can sprain toes as well. Mild sprains may clear up after a few days of rest, but more severe ones may develop chronic instability without treatment.

A fracture is a break in hard bone tissue. Some fractures are small cracks that develop under repetitive stress. These are called stress fractures. Others develop very suddenly. The force on your bones is stronger than they can support, so they break. The break could be a simple one, or it could force the bones out of position and even fracture in multiple places. Bones have to be immobilized for the tissue to heal correctly, otherwise you could develop deformities and chronic pain.

So sprains and fractures affect totally different structures. When one happens on the soccer field or when you trip and fall down stairs, however, they can still be hard to tell apart. Their initial symptoms, like pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising, are very similar. The most accurate way to tell a sprain and a fracture apart is to have your foot examined by a specialist.

At The Kansas Foot Center, we examine your feet and use diagnostic images to look inside and see the damage. This allows us to identify a broken bone and possibly torn ligaments. If you’re concerned you may have a sprain or a fracture of any kind, don’t just wait for the pain to go away. Get your exact injury diagnosed so you can get the treatment you really need. Contact our Wichita, Newton, or Emporia offices online or by calling (316) 283-4330 for an appointment today.