What Is the Difference Between a Wrist Sprain and a Fracture?

difference-between-wrist-sprain-fracture Credit: The US Army/CC-BY 2.0

People often assume that sprains are just less serious injuries than fractures. However, according to WebMD, sprains and fractures are different types of injury that affect connective tissue and bone, respectively. A fracture is when a bone breaks, and a sprain is the tearing and inflammation of tendons or ligaments.

The difference between these injuries is not a matter of severity; it is which part of the body is affected. WebMD explains that both fractures and sprains are potentially serious injuries, and they are often hard to tell apart since the damage is internal. According to HowStuffWorks, there are some signs that point to a fracture. Fractures are often accompanied by a loud crack or popping sound when the injury is sustained. Fractures are also sometimes characterized by a visible displacement of the bone, fragments of bone protruding through the skin, or abnormal movement of the bone. In the absence of such obvious signs, an X-ray is typically needed to tell the difference.

Sprains are the result of tearing in the tendons or ligaments of a joint, and they usually cause pain and tenderness, swelling, and discoloration of the area. However, these are also frequent symptoms of a fracture, and both sprains and fractures have the potential to develop serious complications if left untreated. Seek immediate medical attention when either injury is suspected so that a medical professional is able to make a proper determination and treat the injury accordingly.