Sprains vs. Fractures: What You Need to Know

Are you experiencing pain or numbness in your foot or ankle? Are you having trouble determining whether it’s a sprain or a fracture? It can be difficult to tell the difference. At Arizona Foot & Ankle Specialists, we’re here to help you.

Sprains and fractures are never fun. Instead of playing your favorite sport, you end up watching from the sidelines. If the injury is severe, it’s painful and interrupts your daily routine. 

So, how do you know if what you’re feeling is a sprain or a fracture? Let’s review the basics.

What is a sprain?

A sprain occurs when the ligaments in your foot or, more commonly, your ankle, are stretched or torn. Sprains vary in severity, ranging from Grade I sprains, which involve microscopic tears or stretching of the ligaments and are generally considered mild, to Grade III sprains, which involve ligaments that have completely torn. Sprains are generally accompanied by pain, swelling, bruising, and limited mobility of the affected area.

What is a fracture?

A fracture occurs when a bone is met with great force or impact, causing a break and changing the shape of the bone. Fractures can be partial or complete, and have similar symptoms of sprains. However, fractures typically bring more intense pain or numbness and can cause a visible deformity. If the fracture has caused a piercing of the skin, head to the emergency room immediately to get treatment.

How can I tell the difference?

Symptoms of sprains and fractures can be quite similar. The main differences lie in the severity and location of your pain and whether there’s a noticeable deformity. For example, if the pain you’re feeling is located in the softer parts of your ankle, it’s most likely due to stretched or torn ligaments, and is therefore a sprain. If the pain you’re feeling is located right at the bone, you’re probably experiencing a fracture. 

The best and most accurate way to determine if you have a sprain or fracture is to see your doctor. When visiting Arizona Foot & Ankle Specialists, Dr. Samuel Cox gives your injury a thorough examination. He asks how the injury occurred and what level and type of pain you’re experiencing. Based on your specific case, he determines whether an X-ray is needed.

With all important information in hand, he explains what kind of treatment is right for you. Whether it’s rest, ice, compression, and elevation — the RICE method — or surgery and rehabilitation, Dr. Cox and his team take care of you every step of the way.

If you’re experiencing pain or numbness in your foot or ankle and you’re not sure what to do next, give us a call or book your appointment online.

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