Health and Fitness Tips

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Sometimes when an injury occurs it can be hard to determine what exactly the injury is. Sprains and breaks are a common injury that can mimic each other, but treatment can vary greatly for each one. Determining the difference usually requires a visit to a medical professional, but that doesn’t always mean an Emergency room doctor has to access it. Urgent care clinics have doctors able to properly diagnose sprains and breaks and treat them. Almost 80% of all urgent care clinics are equipped to provide care for a fracture if that swelling indicates the situation is worse than a sprain. Read below to see some common differences between a sprain and a broken bone.

What is a Sprain

Virtually everyone is aware of what a break it, but sprains can leave some confused as to what they are, what causes them and why they hurt so bad. A sprain is the result of stress on a joint. This stress causes the ligaments around the joint, commonly the ankle or wrist, to stretch, pull and tear. The end result is pain and swelling in the associated area. More than one-quarter of all Americans suffer from ankle sprains each day with 80% of them being the result of inward rolling or inversion of the ankle. Mild sprains results in the stretching of the ligament but the joint isn’t adversely affected too bad. Moderate sprains tear the ligaments causing the joint to feel unstable and painful. A severe sprain is not commonly seen and causes complete separation of the ligament. This results in severe pain, severe swelling and not being able to put pressure on the joint, such as walk.


Although all injuries should be checked thoroughly at a local urgent care clinic there are some distinct differences between breaks and sprains. These are possible to see with the naked eye, but proper medical care should be sought whether a break or a sprain is suspected. Read some more notable differences between a sprain and a break below.


Since a sprain relates to the tendons and ligaments of an ankle, the pain associated with a sprain typically involves the soft tissue surrounding joints, such as the ankle. Tenderness will be felt in the soft tissues as opposed to on the actual bone. Breaks will be more tender on the actual bone near the site of the break. This pain can radiate all the way up the bone rather being localized to the injured joint. While this is important to note, it is also important to remember that sprains cause wide spread localized swelling around the joint that can make it hard to pinpoint exactly where the pain is radiating from.


Despite the swelling associated with sprains and breaks there are a few noticeable differences between them, especially when it concerns things such as the foot. The look of the foot may be different. This includes walking and resting state. When resting the foot could look crooked or off, and it could be positioned differently while walking. Any differences in foot shape or how it looks, aside from swelling of course, should be checked.


The last noticeable difference is a hard one. Only the individual with the injury can really tell this one. Sprains usually involve a sound that makes a “pop.” If this sound is heard then it is safe to assume the injury is a sprain rather than a break to the bone.

While there are significant differences between a break and a sprain it is important to remember that even a sprain should be checked by a medical professional if signs of improvement are not seen within a couple of days. Always remember this information should never take the place of medical advice, so anytime you are in doubt head straight to your nearest urgent care clinic for a proper diagnosis. Differentiating between a sprain and a break, but chances are medical professionals have seen them numerous time and have the equipment to make a proper diagnosis.