Hand Sprain vs. Fracture: Here’s What You Should Know

A close-up image of a man sitting across from a doctor at a desk with his hand wrapped in a bandage.

Whether it’s a slip on a freshly cleaned floor, a work slip up, or a hard fall on the basketball court, hand injuries are common accidents that occur daily.

In fact, thousands of people visit their local urgent care center or emergency room each year with hand-related problems, most thinking they’ve broken their hand.

Regardless of how you hurt your hand, pain in this area can be excruciating, causing you to wonder whether you’ve just sprained your hand or if it is something more serious, such as a fracture.

One of the most common occurrences we see when it comes to hand injuries is patients trying to differentiate between a hand sprain vs. a fracture.

No matter the outcome, it is important to seek treatment for any injury that is causing you pain, especially if it worsens over time or impairs your daily function.

Let’s explore the difference between hand sprains vs. fractures in more detail.

What Is a Sprain?

A sprain is an injured ligament.

Ligaments connect bone to bone at each of our joints. Stretching or tearing a ligament causes a sprain.

Although the ankle is the most common location for a sprain, it can happen to the hand, wrist, elbows, or any other joint on the body.

Some of the most common signs of a hand sprain include

  • Pain in the soft tissue over a bone instead of felt right on the bone itself
  • Pain when placing weight on the hand, especially when pressing the palm down
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Limited mobility
  • A popping sound at the time of injury

What Is a Fracture?

A fracture is a broken bone. This is the most severe type of injury to a bone and can occur anywhere in the body.

There are various types of fractures, including ones that break the bones completely and ones that partially break a bone area.

The most common indications of a fracture include

  • Intense pain located directly on top of the bone
  • Pain that becomes worse when you apply pressure or move the hand
  • Severe swelling
  • Bruising over the top of the bone
  • Numbness or tingling
  • A “cracking” sound at the time of the injury
  • A change in the appearance of the area, causing all or part of the hand to look crooked or deformed
  • Inability to use your hand

Hand Sprain vs. Fracture Treatment Options

Both hand sprains and fractures are confirmed via x-ray, but treatment options differ.

For a sprain, it is best to follow the “RICE” method for proper healing: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. 

In more severe sprain cases, physical therapy may be needed to help the injury fully heal.

For a fracture, depending on the severity of the injury and the number of broken bones, splinting or casting may be required to allow the hand to remain immobile so that the broken bones can reform and heal into their proper position.

In severe cases of fracture, specialized surgery by an orthopedic surgeon may be required.

Hand Care You Need Now at Emerald Coast Urgent Care

If you or a loved one sustained a hand injury that has left you with unrelenting symptoms, you should seek medical evaluation for further diagnosis.

Our compassionate and experienced team at Emerald Coast Urgent Care is here to help seven days a week.

Our on-site x-rays provide quick and easy results so you can get to the bottom of your hand pain sooner and receive the appropriate diagnosis and treatment you need today.

There is no need for an appointment; simply walk in to get your injured hand treated now.

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