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Is It a Sprain or Break? Here’s How to Tell the Difference

Whether it’s slipping and falling, or twisting your ankle wearing your favorite platform shoes, one wrong move can lead to serious injuries.

If the pain doesn’t go away or you can’t walk on it, you may have a sprain or break. Although both injuries share symptoms, there is a difference.

Find out how to tell them apart, and if you need to see a doctor.

Symptoms of a Sprain

A sprain happens when you damage your ligaments. If these bands of tissue stretch too far, they can tear, causing severe pain.

You may have a sprain if you experience these symptoms.

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle weakness

Sprains can happen after a fall or a sharp twist. Sprains usually occur in the ankles, knees, and wrists.

Symptoms of a Break

A break or fracture is when the bone cracks partially or completely. There are different types of fractures, but if your limb looks deformed, you may have a break.

Here are more signs of a broken bone.

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity
  • Pain that increases when you move or touch the area
  • Protruding or visible bone

You may not see any signs of deformity, but you can still have a fracture. The best way to tell if you have a break is with an x-ray.

Sprain vs Break: How to Tell the Difference

Sprains and breaks can appear similar at first. Some of the most common symptoms are swelling, bruising, and pain in the affected area.

These questions can help you pinpoint the problem.

Did you hear a noise when you were injured?

Bones can make a snapping or cracking noise when they break. Sprains are usually silent, although you might hear a pop.

Is the affected area deformed?

If your arm or leg appears misshapen, you might have a fracture. Deformity is a common symptom of a broken bone.

Is the area numb?

Tingling or numbness can indicate the bone has damaged your nerves and blood vessels. If you experience numbness, see a doctor.

Learn more about treatment at Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzales, and the differences between sprains and fractures.

What to Do Next

Many people do not seek treatment when they sprain an ankle or wrist. Out of the people that sprain their ankles each year, 55 percent don’t get treatment.

But leaving a sprain untreated leads to balance problems, arthritis, difficulty exercising, and more.

Not seeking medical help for a break is even more serious. Misdiagnosing a fracture as a sprain and leaving it untreated can lead to bone deformity, pain, and permanent nerve damage.

If you can’t walk, or you’re experiencing numbness, see a doctor immediately. For first-time patients, you can prepare for your visit by checking insurance coverage and filling out patient forms.

Experienced a Sprain or Break? Get It Treated

Sprains and breaks can appear very similar, and share many symptoms. If you can’t walk or put pressure on the area, you should seek medical help. An x-ray can determine if you have a sprain or break. Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzales has x-ray and lab facilities on-site to save you time and energy.

Treatments include casts or wraps, along with rest, ice, and keeping the limb elevated.

If you think you may have a break or sprain, walk in to Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzales. We’re open seven days a week from 9AM-8PM.