Healthy You

Broken Bones and Ligament Sprains

Where to Go for Broken Bones and Sprains

Broken bones and sprained ligaments are two of the most common types of injuries in the US. Breaks refer to broken or fractured bones, while sprains refer to injuries to ligaments, which are soft tissues that connect bones to one another.

While breaks and sprains can happen for a number of reasons, they often result in excruciating pain, especially when you apply pressure to the affected area. Additionally, breaks and sprains can be lingering injuries, which is why it’s important to have them diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.

Signs and Symptoms

While broken bones and sprained ligaments affect different parts of the body, it’s tough to tell them apart. Some breaks and fractures are small enough that they can resemble a sprained ligament and vice versa. Adding to the confusion is the fact that they often cause similar signs and symptoms, including the following.

  • Pain that can range from excruciating to nagging
  • Swelling around the injured area
  • Tenderness to the touch or to light pressure
  • Bruising, redness, or other discoloration
  • Stiffness or the inability to move the injured area

If you have an open break, which is where a bone breaks and protrudes through your skin, you will obviously be able to discern that you have a break and not a sprain. However, with injuries to the ankle, knee, elbow, hip, and other joints, it’s harder to tell the difference.

Factors That Increase Your Risk

Broken bones and sprains can happen to anyone at any age. However, there are several things that increase your risk of suffering these injuries, including the following.

  • Playing contact sports such as football, soccer, or rugby.
  • Playing sports with lots of pivoting, running, and jumping, such as basketball, volleyball, or baseball.
  • Bone density decreases with old age, which puts older people at higher risk of broken bones.
  • Not properly stretching before physical activity increases the risk of a sprain.
  • Overuse is a common cause of breaks and sprains, as with weekend warriors.

Diagnosing Broken Bones and Sprains

Because breaks and sprains are very similar and doctors can’t always tell the difference with a simple physical examination, additional tests are often necessary.


Your healthcare professional will likely first perform an X-ray, either to confirm that you have a broken bone or to rule out a sprain.


If your doctor confirms you DON’T have a broken bone, they may perform an MRI to get a closer look at your ligaments and the surrounding tissue.

CT Scans

In addition to an MRI, medical professionals can also perform a CT scan to get a better look at the affected area. CT scans are comprehensive tests that reveal broken bones, ligament damage, soft tissue injuries, and more.

Potential Complications

Most times, breaks and sprains will require a professional medical diagnosis and treatment if you want to recover fully. Breaks and sprains can debilitate and linger for years if they don’t heal properly, which is usually the result if you “let it heal on its own.” As a result, you will have impaired movement and chronic pain, and you won’t be able to resume your usual physical activities without proper treatment. 

How an Urgent Care Clinic Can Help

Because of the nature of broken bones and sprains, they often require fast and effective intervention. The best way to do this is by going to an urgent care clinic if you suspect that you have sustained a break or a sprain.

Clinicians at urgent care facilities can determine whether you have a break or a sprain using X-rays, MRIs, and/or CT scans. Once they diagnose the injury, they will then stabilize the bone or ligament in question and start you on prescription or over-the-counter pain medications.

With a minor fracture or sprain, stabilization combined with pain medications and home care might be all the treatment you need. For serious breaks and sprains, however, you will probably require corrective surgery that you can only receive at a hospital or outpatient medical facility. Either way, an urgent care facility can diagnose your injury, start you on the road to recovery, and recommend what your next steps should be.

Anderson Walk-In Medical Clinic - Anderson | Redding | Palo Cedro


3082 McMurray Drive,
Anderson, CA
(530) 365-4412

Anderson Walk-In Medical Clinic - Anderson | Redding | Palo Cedro

Palo Cedro

9164 Deschutes Road, Suite 4,
Palo Cedro, CA
(530) 547-5305

Anderson Walk-In Medical Clinic - Anderson | Redding | Palo Cedro


1310 Churn Creek Road, Suite E5,
Redding, CA
(530) 722-9907