July 1, 2009— -- Question: How can I tell the difference between a strain, a sprain and a fracture?
Answer: Well, a strain is an injury to a muscle, a sprain is an injury to a ligament -- the tissue that helps hold a joint together -- and a fracture is an injury to the bone itself. So, the location can be a big clue: If it's in an area of a large muscle or the middle of a muscle, that could be a clue, while a sprain would be the tissue around a ligament, and a fracture would usually have point of tenderness right over the bone where the injury has occurred. But in reality, the only way to know for sure if something is a fracture is with an X-ray. Oftentimes, people have trouble using the injured body part -- say unable to walk on it or to use their arm or their hand if that's where the fracture has occurred -- but even that's not necessarily a sure rule to go by. So, when in doubt see your health care provider to be sure of just how severe an injury is.