Five Ways To Know If You Have A Broken Bone

Many muscle and ligament injuries hurt as much as bone fractures. Both injuries also trigger loss of mobility, in many cases. Yet while muscle and ligament injuries usually only need rest, compression, elevation, and ice to heal, fractures always require surgery and often require physical therapy as well.

Due to the difference in treatment, it’s important to distinguish between these injuries. If they are not properly addressed, broken bones can become permanent injuries.

Loss of Use

Most muscle tears, ligament sprains, and other non-bone injuries trigger excruciating pain but do not result in complete loss of mobility. In fact, if the injury is mild enough, it’s usually possible to put most of the normal weight on an injured knee or leg.

But most fractures cause complete loss of use. The injured area will not bear any weight whatsoever, even after the initial shock subsides.

On a related note, fractures take much longer to heal than muscle injuries, in most cases. It’s not always easy to get around on crutches for weeks or even months on end. As an alternative to crutches, consider a portable scooter. They’re especially nice for people who must do, or enjoy doing, a lot of walking during the day.

Obvious Deformity

Muscles and tendons are very tiny, so even if they tear completely, the only evidence will probably be redness and swelling.

However, if the bone is fractured, the injured area will not look like the non-injured area, aside from the swelling and redness. These breaks often bend the limbs at awkward angles, though it can be hard to see this kind of deformity until the swelling goes down. The deformity test is especially important for arms, wrists, shoulders, and other non-weight-bearing areas.

As another side note, if you have a laceration in addition to a fracture, the exposed bone could develop a serious infection. It’s even more important to see a doctor immediately in these cases.

Pain Location

The discomfort, while extreme in almost any case, is almost always localized on the injured area in these early stages. If the bone does not hurt, the bone is not probably not broken. On the other hand, if the muscles hurt, they are probably injured. There is a big difference between the way tired or stiff muscles feel and the pain that injured ones create.

If the bone hurts to the touch, the bone is usually broken. Even a feather touch triggers extreme pain in most broken bones.

For the most part, ligament and tendon injuries are noiseless injuries. ACL injuries are the big exception because when that knee ligament tears, most people hear a sudden popping sound in their knees.

Broken bones, generally, are noisy injuries. In addition to the trademark “crack” at the moment of impact or injury, the bones often grind together when the area moves even a little bit. This crepitus also creates a unique sensation that’s something like walking barefoot over a gravel surface.


Since they occur entirely below the surface of the skin and ligaments have no blood vessels, muscle injuries rarely involve bleeding. Therefore, bruising is uncommon in these injuries as well, even if the patient sustains a trauma wound.

But bones contain blood cells, and when these cells leak, they often cause bruises. These signs are even acuter if the break occurs in a non-joint area, such as the forearm, thigh, upper arm, or shin.

Any painful fitness or athletic injury probably needs medical attention for a proper diagnosis, so the patient treats the injury properly. But knowing the distinguishing factors of a bone fracture help patients be prepared for the news they get from the doctors.

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