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972.853.7100
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972.943.3323
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Breaks, Sprains, or Fractures: What’s the Difference?

Imagine you’re running when you stumble over a large crack in the pavement. You feel a sudden, sharp pain in your foot. Whenever you try to move your lower limb, it hurts, and you have to limp to keep walking. What did you injure—a bone, or the supporting connective tissues? When a problem occurs inside your body, out of sight, it can be hard to tell exactly what it is. Symptoms like these can be indicative of several different foot and ankle injuries, including a broken bone or a sprain.

Break vs. Fracture vs. Sprain

Trauma to your foot or ankle can cause serious damage to the bones and connective tissues that hold them together. The specific damage that results is what determines the type of injury. The painful overstretching or tearing of a ligament is called a sprain. This is different from the same type of damage to a tendon or a muscle—that is called a strain. When the injury is a disruption of the bone, it’s a called a break or a fracture.

There is a common misconception that breaks and fractures are different. Some assume that a fracture isn’t as serious as a broken bone, but that isn’t the case. Though you can certainly injure bones to varying degrees—small, aligned cracks are easier to treat than misaligned bones or ones with multiple breaks—the names “fracture” and “broken bone” mean the exact same thing: a break in the hard tissue.

Although broken bones and sprains affect different structures within the lower limb, it can be hard for you to tell which injury has taken place until you have it diagnosed by a doctor, like those here at Dallas Podiatry Works. Both kinds of damage can be extremely painful. The discomfort is immediate and can make it very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to put weight on the affected foot, depending on the severity of the problem. The injured area swells and often bruises. Both conditions can result in chronic pain and weakness, as well as lead to additional injuries, if they are not addressed and remedied.

Repairing the Damage

How your foot is treated does depend both on the specific diagnosis and the severity of the damage. The professional staff of Dallas Podiatry Works will evaluate your foot with tests and diagnostic images to get a clear picture of what structures are injured. Once Drs. Joel Brook, Arroyo, McClurkin and Tran know whether you have a fracture or a sprain, they can move forward with accurate treatment.

Both conditions can usually be treated conservatively. A sprain will need to have the irritation and swelling decreased. This means resting and icing the affected area. You may need to have your foot immobilized in a wrap or brace to keep from stressing the injured ligaments. More serious sprains may require a no weight-bearing period to allow the connective tissues to recover. A broken bone will need a period of time in a cast or special boot to hold it still so the body can repair the crack. Usually this means no weight on the foot until the break has healed.

Ruptured ligaments or displaced broken bones may need surgery to repair the damage. Neither will heal correctly on its own unless the ends of the torn or misaligned tissues are brought back together. The edges must be surgically realigned—and sometimes pinned in place—for them to reattach.

How your foot and ankle injuries are treated depends largely on an accurate diagnosis of the damage. If you have hurt your lower limb in any way and are concerned you may have a fracture or a sprain, seek help by contacting Dallas Podiatry Works for an appointment or more information. Visit the online contact page, or call us at either of our two office locations: 972.853.7100 for the Dallas office, or (972) 943-3323 for the Plano location.

Your Top-Rated Podiatrist in Dallas & Beyond

The doctor has great “bedside manners” when talking to patients. Great staff and comfortable atmosphere.

Derrick W.

The staff at Dallas Podiatry Works could not have been more courteous, helpful, and professional in doing their job. They made me feel comfortable when I was there, which is certainly appreciated. They answered all the questions that I had and just made each visit the most pleasurable that it could be. I would highly recommend them to anyone needing this type of foot care.

Joseph B.

I would highly recommend Dr. Brook to anyone with foot problems–especially problems that stump other podiatrists. He really is very caring and very knowledgeable.

Jeannette H.

Dr. Joel Brook and the staff were nice and helpful. Though I was a new patient, I got right in as soon as they were open in my preferred location. They diagnosed the problem and provided medicines along with a perfect gel bandage so I could keep exercising while my toes healed. My toes already hurt less and look a little better each day. If I have future issues, I will be a repeat customer. Here’s hoping I don’t, but at least I know my feet are in good hands.

Meryl E.

I visited this office for an ingrown toe nail a few years ago. After seeing another doctor, who made it worse, he referred me to Dallas Podiatry Works. The doctor there was able to fix my problem. I’m not great with reviews, all I can tell you is that this doctor and staff will have you up and running or doing whatever it is you do in no time. You will be in great hands. You’d be a fool not to use this doctor. Now its time to visit him again for the other toe.

Google User

Been having bad ankle pains for 6 months was referred here and it was a great visit ladies in the front desk medical assistants and the Doctor were all very friendly and make you feel very comfortable.

Elizabeth G.

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