So you got yourself in an accident and you really hurt your arm, leg, hand, foot, or other extremity.  You’re worried now that it might be broken, but pain is pain. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether a bone is genuinely broken or if you’re suffering from a simple strain or sprain.

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to know, but there are a few specific things you can look for that can indicate a break, rather than something less serious.  Here are a few:

Deformity – Let’s start with the obvious.  If the extremity you injured is bent out of shape, it’s probably fairly serious and a good sign that you’re looking at a break.  In cases like these, delay is not your friend.  Contact your doctor immediately.

Swelling and/or Bruising – This is always present when you have a break but unfortunately, it’s present any time you suffer from a strain or sprain too.  By itself then, this is suggestive, but certainly not definitive.

Reduced Motor Function – This is another suggestive symptom that isn’t definitive in isolation, but it’s certainly a sign post that you could be looking at a break.  Obviously, if you’ve broken a bone, you’re going to be faced with a serious lack of mobility. It’s certainly true that the same could be said of serious sprains, albeit usually with less pain than you’d feel if attempting to move a broken bone.

Grinding – This one is a pretty clear indicator.  If you can feel two bits of bone grinding together when you flex or move the extremity you’re worried about, you can bet that you’re looking at something more serious than a simple strain.

Again, it’s not easy to know for sure if you’re dealing with a break or something less serious so don’t take any chances.  If you get hurt, your next stop should be your doctor or the nearest emergency clinic, just to be sure.