Health Information

How to distinguish a fracture from a bruise? Description of symptoms


Any injury that results in pain, bruising, and limitation of mobility is, at the very least, unpleasant. But often more serious consequences are hidden behind a banal bruise: sprains, dislocations and fractures. And some bruises can lead to health complications. Therefore, it is important to be able to distinguish these conditions and consult a doctor in time.

What is a bruise?

A bruise is called closed damage to tissues or organs as a result of mechanical stress. Depending on the location, volume and depth of the location of damaged tissues, impact forces, bruises can have different manifestations. For example, a well-known bruise is a hemorrhage due to damage to blood vessels. The remaining symptoms are also familiar to many.

Signs of injury:

  • Pain after mechanical exposure
  • Swelling (due to edema and hemorrhage)
  • Hemorrhage in damaged tissue (hematomas)
  • An increase in skin temperature and its redness over the injured area
  • Restriction of the function of a specific organ or body part

Painful sensations occur at the time of the bruise, then become somewhat dull. But with an increase in hematoma and tissue edema, the pain can appear again with a vengeance. Especially unpleasant sensations occur in places without fat, on the front surface of the lower leg, for example. Sometimes the pain and swelling are so strong, it is difficult to distinguish between a fracture and a bruise.

First aid:

  • Rest for the injured part of the body, its elevated position (raise the limb, lie on the opposite side, etc.)
  • Pressure dressing
  • On the first day - applying cold (for the prevention of hematomas). Ice bubbles should be removed periodically so as not to cause damage to blood vessels at low temperatures. It is best to apply an ice bladder immediately to a pressure dressing for 25-30 minutes, then apply every 10–2 hours for 10–15 minutes.
  • In case of severe pain, swelling, large hematomas, it is recommended to consult a doctor. Supervision of a specialist may be needed with bruises of the head, internal organs, and other dangerous locations.
  • It is not necessary to rub the place of the bruise and warm it in the first two days (after 48 hours you can warm it)
  • It is important to remember that first aid for fractures and bruises, dislocations and sprains is absolutely identical: rest, cold, anesthesia.

Health care:

  • Physiotherapy and novocaine blockade for pain relief may be prescribed at the medical institution.
  • Surgical treatment for severe injuries: piercing the skin and pumping blood from large hematomas, cleansing the joint cavity of fluid, the introduction of antibiotics.

What is stretching?

Damage caused by traction, and not accompanied by a violation of the integrity of the tissues, is called stretching. Tendons, ligaments and muscles suffer - that is, the elastic parts of the body. Tissues are usually damaged in the area of ​​the joints.

Signs of a sprain:

  • Pain at the site of injury (especially with movement following the mechanism of injury)
  • Swelling
  • Sometimes a slight hemorrhage (bruise, see ointment for bruises)
  • Restriction of function of the damaged part of the body

First aid:

  • Rest and elevation of the limb
  • Cold to the site of injury (as with bruises)
  • Locking bandage on the joint (elastic bandage)
  • With severe pain, swelling and worsening condition - see a doctor. More serious injuries have similar symptoms - rupture of ligaments, for example, often requiring surgical treatment. In addition, it can be difficult to understand whether a sprain or fracture caused such a dynamic.
  • It is not necessary to rub and warm the place of damage for the first 2 days.

Health care:

  • Pain relief if necessary
  • Physiotherapy after the pain subsides
  • Gentle treatment for damaged parts of the body
  • Disability recovery usually occurs after 1-4 weeks

What is a dislocation?

Dislocation is a persistent separation of the surfaces of the joint, normally adjacent to each other. Usually occurs as a result of mechanical stress (more often in middle-aged men). If the articular surfaces are not completely disconnected, then this phenomenon is called subluxation. Its signs are similar to a complete dislocation.

Dislocation Treatment

Trying to cure a dislocation of the house with poultices, lotions, compresses is a very dangerous undertaking. The doctor will be able to correct a fresh dislocation (up to three days) much easier than a chronic one, so every minute after the injury is expensive. Directing a dislocation on your own is by no means impossible, as you can aggravate the situation by tearing the ligaments, muscles, and even breaking the bone. The only thing that can be done is to provide maximum peace to the injured person, apply cold and call an ambulance, or quickly get to the emergency room on your own.

Types of fractures:

  • Closed (without violating the integrity of soft tissues)
  • Open (with damage to soft tissues and penetration of bone fragments to the outside)
  • Without displacement of fragments (parts of the bone do not change their position)
  • With displacement (fragments are displaced relative to each other in different planes)
  • Traumatic
  • Pathological (due to tumor, osteoporosis, genetic bone fragility with minimal impact)

Signs of a fracture

  • Pain
  • Unnatural limb position
  • Abnormal mobility (limb can be slightly bent in an area where there is no joint)
  • Visible bone fragments in a wound with an open fracture
  • Crepitus (crunching) of small fragments when a sore spot is pressed (this symptom distinguishes fractures from sprains or bruises)
  • Swelling in the area of ​​injury
  • Hemorrhage and hematoma
  • Symptom of axial load (increased pain at the fracture site when striking along the axis of the limb - for example, heel pain during fracture of the leg bones)

Injuries in children

Due to their mobility and unformed musculoskeletal system, children often get bruises, damage to ligaments and even fractures. Distinguishing them at home is even more difficult than in adults. It is difficult for a child to describe the pain; he is frightened by an injury or the prospect of getting to a doctor. There are the most common injuries in babies that can be suspected at home. But for the diagnosis quite often requires a specialist examination.

What is a fracture?

Fracture - a complete or partial violation of the integrity of the bone or cartilage. It is accompanied by trauma to surrounding tissues: muscles, skin, blood vessels, nerve endings. Fractures can occur for two reasons:

  • due to the impact on the bone of external forces that can disrupt the strength of the skeleton,
  • with a slight injury, if a person suffers from a disease that changes the structure of bone tissue.

Fracture can be open or closed. In case of an injury of the first type, the skin is injured, severe bleeding appears. Damaged bone is visible on the surface. With an injury of the second type, the skin remains intact, there is no external bleeding. A hematoma may appear.

Symptoms of bruising and closed fracture are very similar. At first glance, both injuries have no distinguishing features except a bruise. Therefore, people have the question: "How to distinguish a fracture from a bruise?"

Radial subluxation

Young children, especially girls up to 3-4 years old, often get such a subluxation when they pull on their hands. For example, parents or a nanny pulls the baby's hands to avoid falling. This injury was even called the "elbow of the nanny." The main symptom is a click (not always) and a sharp pain in the elbow with any movement of the forearm. The kid does not allow to move a sore arm. If you create limbs of peace, then the pain noticeably wanes. The doctor at the emergency room usually immediately identifies such a typical injury by the position of the limb, makes a reduction and lets the child go home. No additional treatment is required.

Learning to distinguish a fracture from a bruise

Understanding how to distinguish a fracture from a bruise is not as difficult as it might seem. The main symptoms:

  1. If a person has a fracture, pain makes itself felt for several hours. May intensify over time. With a bruise, the pain gradually subsides.
  2. With a fracture, edema of the damaged area increases by 2-3 days. With a bruise, it appears immediately after an impact.
  3. If the integrity of the bone in the limb is damaged, it is impossible to perform motor activity due to the appearance of severe pain. For example, when a hand is injured, you cannot clench your fist. If the leg is damaged, it is not possible to fully straighten it.
  4. In a fracture with a displacement of the bone, the limb may be deformed. It may also change its length compared to healthy.

To understand what type of injury a person has, it is necessary to put pressure on the damaged area in the longitudinal direction. If an arm or leg is affected, ask the patient to carefully move the support onto it. With a fracture, sharp pain will appear in the damaged area.

If you cannot independently determine what type of injury the victim has, do not try to provide first aid. It’s better to wait until the doctor arrives.

How to distinguish a fracture from a bruised finger?

It is not so simple to understand by external signs what type of injury the victim has. And with a closed fracture, and with a bruise, the same symptoms appear:

  • swelling appears on the affected area,
  • the skin turns blue,
  • the injured area hurts.

You can distinguish a little finger fracture from a bruise by the following signs:

  • the length of the damaged phalanx has changed,
  • a constant sharp pain is felt in the finger,
  • palpation can detect bone deformation.

With a bruise, pain in the finger will occur during motor activity. In a couple of days it will pass. If the patient has a fracture, pain will only increase with time. Puffiness will also become stronger.

How to distinguish a fracture from a bruise yourself? Practical experience is important here. There is always a chance that a person without a medical education will make a mistake. Therefore, do not treat yourself.

It will be useful to visit the hospital and undergo an X-ray examination to get an accurate diagnosis.

Subperiosteal fractures

The bone of a small child has a number of structural features, so they often have precisely subperiosteal fractures when the bone is broken and the periosteum is intact. It looks like a green branch of a bush when trying to break it off. Such fractures are more difficult to diagnose even with an x-ray. Only a specialist knows how to distinguish a fracture from a bruise in this case. But bones in children are fused three times faster than in adults, which significantly speeds up the recovery time.

Fracture or bruise of a toe - how to understand?

One can distinguish a little finger fracture from a bruise by the same signs as the type of damage to the phalanx of the arm. Constant pain appears, which becomes unbearable in a few days. Swelling is gradually increasing. The finger is getting shorter. When palpating, a protrusion of the bone can be detected. If the fracture is displaced, severe deformation of the finger will be noticeable.

With a bruised toe, it will be difficult for the victim to transfer the support to the injured limb. As in the case of a phalangeal bruise on the arm, with motor activity, acute pain will appear, which will quickly pass if the treatment is correctly carried out.

We figured out how to distinguish a fracture from a bruised toe or arm. Now we find out how to provide first aid.

How to distinguish injuries from each other?

In some cases, everyone can be diagnosed. For example, the appearance of a bruise after hitting a leg against a corner, accompanied by mild pain - this is probably a bruise. And the gaping of bone fragments through the wound is an open fracture. There are still signs that make it possible to put a presumptive diagnosis.

Actions with a bruised limb

First aid can be provided by following the algorithm below:

  • apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in cloth to the injury site,
  • if there is damage to the skin, treat the wound with an antiseptic and apply a bandage,
  • with severe pain, anesthetics are taken.

Bruise is treated with special anti-inflammatory ointments. They relieve swelling, promote resorption of the hematoma and relieve pain. The recovery period after injury lasts 7-14 days.

If the hematoma that forms after a stroke does not pass for a long time, it is recommended to consult a doctor. In rare cases, surgery is required to cope with the disease.

How to help with a broken finger?

First aid for a fracture is of great importance for further treatment. It is important not to aggravate the situation. First of all, with a closed fracture of the finger, it must be immobilized. For this, a tire is made from improvised materials. A pen, an ice cream stick, a twig will do. The tire is applied on the inside of the finger and fixed with a sterile bandage or any other tissue.

If the fracture is open, it is necessary to treat the wound with an antiseptic: Chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide, Miramistin. When bleeding, a gauze dressing or cotton swab is applied to the damaged area. Then fix the injured finger. To relieve a pain symptom, "Analgin", "Ketanov", "Nurofen" are used.

If a fracture occurs, be sure to consult a doctor. It is impossible to cope with such an injury on your own.

You have learned how to distinguish a fracture from a bruise. We got acquainted with the technique of first aid for injuring a finger on an arm or leg. Following the instructions, you can easily help the victim. But if you are not confident in your abilities, you should not touch the injured limb. Improper first aid will only aggravate the patient's condition.


Often muscle sprains and bone fractures have similar causes. They may be as follows:

  1. A fall followed by a landing on the heels. Thus, a sharp and brute force acts on the extremities, which can lead to a violation of the integrity of the bones, as well as to rupture or stretching of the tendons or muscle tissue.
  2. Sports injuries arising from the practice of the sport in which a large load goes to his feet. Most often this affects football players, basketball players, runners, gymnasts.

Unfortunately, even in the absence of intensive sports or the right selection of shoes, you cannot completely protect yourself from injuries of this kind.


PainAt the time of injury, then weakens and dulls. With increasing edema may increaseAt the time of injury, acute, intense, may increase over timeIntense at the time of injury, aggravated by attempted movementIntense at the time of injury, aggravated by movement and touch EdemaOftenSometimesOftenOften strong Limb length changeNoNoYesOften Pathological mobility outside the jointNoNoNoOften Crepitation of bone fragmentsNoNoNoOften Deformation of a damaged part of the bodyNoNoOftenOften The increase in pain when you click on the injury siteOftenOftenOftenOften Symptom axial loadNoNoNoPositive (increased soreness) Joint deformationNoNoOftenWith intraarticular fractures, with capsule rupture Blood in the jointSometimes, when blood flows from the hematoma to the jointSometimesOftenWith intraarticular fractures Limb axis changeNoNoOftenIt occurs (with a strong displacement of fragments) Active (independent) movementsSavedLimited due to increased painImpossibleImpossible or extremely painful and limited Passive movementsSavedSavedLimited due to increased painExtremely painful and limited

The final diagnosis can only be made by a specialist traumatologist. First aid for dislocations and fractures is just a way to alleviate the condition before the ambulance arrives. Therefore, for all types of damage that cause inconvenience, it is better to contact a specialist in the emergency room. Sometimes a single look at the damage and a couple of questions are enough to determine the type of injury. But more often it is necessary to use X-ray diagnostics, and sometimes MRI, CT and other methods.

All of the above signs are more related to injuries of the limbs. But there are separate parts of the body that react completely differently. For head injuries, the symptoms may not correspond to the nature of the damage. So, a brain contusion cannot be seen in an x-ray. But it can be manifested by poor health and loss of consciousness. A fracture of the skull bones can be accompanied only by a mild headache, and be complicated by a serious hemorrhage. Therefore, there are cases when you need to see a doctor even without obvious complaints about well-being.

Ankle fracture

The difference between stretching and fracture is that with the last type of injury, damage to the integrity of the bone tissue is diagnosed. There are two types of fractures:

  1. Open, in which there is a significant displacement of the bone with rupture of soft tissues and the formation of a large number of fragments. Such fractures are difficult to treat, and the rehabilitation period takes much longer. With an open fracture, profuse bleeding often occurs.
  2. Closed ones are characterized by slight bone displacement. At the same time, small vessels are affected, because of which a hematoma is formed.

It is closed fractures that can often be confused with stretching muscles or ligaments, since their symptoms are similar.

Distinctive features

There are some indirect signs of an extension or fracture of the ankle, according to which you can distinguish them from each other:

    With a fracture, pain may not occur immediately, but after a certain period of time. This is due to the fact that a large amount of adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, which blocks pain. When the tendons, ligaments, or muscle tissue are stretched, pain appears immediately.

How to distinguish ankle fracture from sprain? Despite the presence of specific symptoms, it is possible to understand the nature of the injury only with the help of an X-ray.

Symptoms of Stretching

There are 3 main degrees of sprain of the ankle joint:

  1. With the 1st degree, a slight tear of muscle fibers occurs. Pain is weak, and palpation feels a slight swelling. The mobility of the joint is fully preserved, but the victim for a long time can not fully step on the sore leg.
  2. At the 2nd degree, tendon fibers are damaged. The pain in this case is quite severe and similar to soreness during a fracture of the tubular bones. Significant edema of the limb is noted. With such an injury, a person can completely lose working capacity for up to 2 weeks.
  3. At the 3rd degree, a break or separation of one or several ligaments is diagnosed. This kind of damage blocks the performance of the leg. Pain is very pronounced, and emphasis on the affected foot is not possible.

The nature of first aid and subsequent treatment also depends on the severity of the injuries received.

Fracture symptoms

Open bone damage is quite difficult to confuse with something, as it tears soft tissues and shows out. A closed fracture does not have such pronounced manifestations, and therefore a preliminary diagnosis can be made on the basis of such indirect manifestations:

  1. Pain that does not go away with time, as well as its intensity, does not decrease. When you try to palpate the site of damage, it is significantly amplified.
  2. The injured place becomes swollen, redness and fever are observed.
  3. Significant hematomas appear as a result of subcutaneous hemorrhage with damage to blood vessels by the bone and its fragments.
  4. In some cases, when pressed, crunching and grinding of broken bones is possible.
  5. Sometimes deformation of the limb becomes noticeable.

When observing such symptoms, it is necessary to conduct an examination with an X-ray in order to prescribe the subsequent adequate treatment.

First Aid Stretching

It is recommended that before the arrival of the medical team to provide the victim with adequate first aid for fractures and sprains. In case of damage to muscles and tendons, it is necessary to perform the following set of measures:

  1. Release foot and socks so that they do not obstruct access to the damaged area.
  2. It is important to raise your leg above heart level. This can be achieved if you help the victim take a horizontal position, and put a pillow, towel or even a bag under the limb.
  3. In the first few hours after damage, it is recommended to apply ice or a wet cold towel to the sore spot, which should be changed as it warms up.

While waiting for a team of qualified medical workers, painkillers can be given to the victim.

First aid for fractures

How to determine a person’s fracture or sprain? To do this, ask the patient about the symptoms. The information obtained will help determine what measures of first aid are necessary in this case. For fractures of the ankle joint, it is recommended to perform the following measures:

  1. It is necessary to remove shoes from the victim and assess the situation.
  2. With a closed fracture, ice must be applied before the ambulance crew arrives.
  3. With an open type of fracture, you must try to stop the bleeding, if it is heavy. This can be done by applying a bandage above the site of injury.
  4. It is necessary to provide the victim with peace. It is also recommended to offer him an anesthetic.

It is also extremely important to ensure complete immobility of the limb. This is necessary so that the damaged bone does not move, as this can significantly aggravate the situation.


After the victim will be delivered to a medical facility, it is necessary to distinguish a fracture from a sprain. How to do it? It is recommended that you consult a traumatologist, he will collect information about the symptoms, as well as about the situation in which the damage was received. After examining and palpating the affected limb, it is necessary to take x-rays. They are performed in two projections: lateral and straight. In some cases, computed tomography may be required. Based on the information obtained as a result of the diagnosis, the correct treatment is prescribed.

Fracture treatment

How to distinguish a fracture from an ankle sprain? This is done using x-rays. After all diagnostic measures have been carried out, treatment is prescribed. In the event of a fracture, it consists of the following measures:

    Immobilization of the damaged ankle joint by applying gypsum for up to 1 month.

While wearing gypsum, any emphasis on the affected limb is prohibited, as the bone may shift.

Sprain treatment

How to distinguish a fracture from a sprain? To do this, you need to compare the symptoms and the nature of the damage, undergo an x-ray. If ankle sprain has been diagnosed, then such measures are prescribed to treat the injury:

    Reduce or remove stress from a damaged limb. To do this, a walking stick or crutch can be used as a support when walking.

In some cases, surgical treatment may be necessary. It is prescribed for rupture of ligaments and is necessary to restore the musculoskeletal function of a limb.

Injury recovery

Both in case of a fracture and a sprain, a rehabilitation period is necessary with the implementation of a certain set of measures to restore joint functions. Recovery can last from 2 weeks to several months, depending on the nature and severity of the injuries. It must include such moments:

  1. Reception of vitamin complexes with calcium, which is necessary for bone fusion during fracture. When stretched, vitamins with collagen are needed to restore the elasticity of ligaments and tendons.
  2. Diet, which must include meat, fish products, as well as cereals, legumes, nuts, fruits.
  3. In severe injuries after removal of the gypsum, it is necessary to develop a limb. This can be done both at home and in stationary conditions. For this, the doctor prescribes a special set of exercises that need to be performed daily.

A recovery period is necessary in order to restore limb mobility, to prevent muscle tissue atrophy, and to increase the ligament elasticity.


How to distinguish a fracture from a sprain? Only the traumatologist can determine the exact nature of the injury after conducting some research. However, damage to bones and joints requires immediate assistance before the arrival of a team of medical specialists. In this case, the responsibility for first aid lies with others. However, it is better to completely abandon it if there is not even minimal knowledge.