Is it a Break or a Fracture – Help?

You’ve just had an accident and think you may have broken a bone. You might not have the time or the finances to find orthopedic care if you don’t truly need it, which is why it is important to know how to identify a break or fracture. Broken bones have a few symptoms you can look for to help differentiate the injury from a sprain or bruise.


The most obvious evidence of a break or fracture of a bone is when the limb or area appears misshapen. Compound fractures are the type that have actually broken through the surface of the skin and are quite painful and potentially bloody, so there is not much mystery in their identification. Fractures that remain under the skin may be curved in an odd way, bent at a strange angle or have some other visible anomaly.

Pain and Swelling

While both sprains and fractures will cause pain and swelling, generally the source or feeling of where the pain is located feels different between the two issues. Sprains swell around the joint and fractures swell near the bone. Both sprains and breaks can be incredibly painful, but the key to identifying a break is again where it occurs. While you may not cross your mind that bones can cause pain, they are surrounded by nerve fibers that can become irritated when a bone has been broken. A person with a break may feel pain coming from the bone, whereas a sprain or bruise would generate pain from the muscles and ligaments.

Difficulty Moving

A sprain can cause difficulty moving just as a break can, but in general terms a sprained area will just be painful when moving, not impossible to move. You may not be able to move a broken limb whatsoever.


If you’ve had a fall or accident, you may have heard a pop or snap at the time of injury. This is usually a good indicator of a fracture. After the initial break you may also hear grinding, especially if it is a complex fracture where the bone has broken into many pieces or splintered. Orthopedic care should be considered a necessity in this case.

If you suffer a joint or bone injury, your best choice is to seek orthopedic care right away. A break that is not corrected may never heal correctly and cause you pain well into the future.

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