You’re hobbled by foot pain, and you suspect that something is wrong, but you’re not sure whether it’s a sprain or a fracture. The fact is that these two developments are quite different, but they share many of the same symptoms, which makes telling the difference between a foot sprain and a foot fracture difficult, at least on your own
To help shed some light, our team of experts here at Western Orthopaedics has pulled together descriptions of each condition, some of the telltale signs, and how best to determine the nature of your foot injury.
Sprain vs fracture
Sprains and fractures are two very different diagnoses and involve different tissues. When you incur a sprain, it means that you’ve injured the ligaments, the soft tissues that hold bone to bone.
There are three degrees of sprains, including:
- Grade I — Stretching or microscopic tears in the ligament
- Grade II — Severe stretching or a partial tear in the ligament
- Grade III — A complete tear in the ligament
With a fracture, it’s the bone that’s damaged. Fractures can range from stable fractures, in which the ends of the bone line up, to more serious open fractures, in which the break is so bad that the bone pierces your skin.
Sprains in your feet
One of the first things to consider when you have foot pain is that foot sprains aren’t all that common. Unlike ankle sprains, the ligaments in your feet are harder to isolate and damage.
While your feet contain many ligaments, some of the more important ones are your:
- Plantar fascia ligaments, which runs along the soles of your feet
- Plantar calcaneonavicular ligaments, which connect ankle bones to foot bones
- Calcaneocuboid ligaments, which connect your heel bones to your tarsal bones
- Lisfranc ligaments in your midfoot
These ligaments play key roles in supporting your arches, but they aren’t terribly vulnerable to tearing as they’re quite small and they’re not responsible for major movements in your feet.
Fractures in your feet
The more common culprit of foot pain is a fracture. Each of your feet contains 26 bones. That means that, together, your feet contain one-quarter of the total bones in your body. Not only are the bones in your feet numerous, these bones are small and more prone to fracture, especially in your metatarsals and toes.
Symptoms of a foot sprain vs a foot fracture
As we mentioned, foot sprains and foot fractures often share symptoms, which include:
- Difficulty with weight-bearing
Unless you’ve incurred a fracture in which the bone has broken through your skin, it can be very difficult to determine which type of injury you’ve developed. Sometimes, your ability to move or manipulate the area can provide clues, but we advise you not to further exacerbate the injury by performing your own tests.
The best way to identify the source of your foot problem is to come see us. We can review your symptoms and use our advanced imaging technology to get a closer look at the structures inside your feet.
Once we get a glimpse at what’s going on inside, we can readily see whether it’s a sprain or fracture (or something else) and get you set up with the correct treatment plan for your foot injury.
To get to the bottom of your foot injury, contact one of our two offices in Denver or Arvada, Colorado, to set up an appointment.