How Can I Tell The Difference Between A Strain, A Sprain And A Fracture?

Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum answers the question: 'Is it a Strain, Sprain or Fracture?'

ByDaryl Rosenbaum, M.D., Director, Sports Medicine Fellowship, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
December 22, 2008, 3:55 PM

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.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events