Sprains occur when ligaments, fibrous bands that connect one bone to another, become stretched, sometimes even tearing. Considering just one hand has well over 100 ligaments, it's not surprising sprains are one of the most common injuries of the fingers, hands, wrists, forearms and elbows. The most common symptoms of a sprain include pain, inflammation, swelling and sometimes bruising. A “popping” noise can sometimes be heard when the injury occurs. Sprains can cause joints to become completely immobile or mobility and stability can be mildly to significantly compromised. Mild sprains may cause swelling and pain without substantially compromising the joint function.
The symptoms of a fracture depend on the severity of the injury and its location. In general, fractures can cause:
pain that is worse with movement or pressure
deformity in the bone or joint
loss of movement or function in the area
Compound fractures result in bone protruding from the skin.
Both fractures and sprains require immediate evaluation by a doctor to prevent the injury from becoming worse and causing permanent damage. In addition to a physical exam, x-rays or other diagnostic imaging tests may be ordered for a more comprehensive evaluation of the area. Sprains and some more mild fractures may be treated with splinting, while more serious fractures will require casting. Some types of fractures and sprains may require surgery to reattach ligaments or ensure bones remain in the proper alignment for healing. Both fractures and sprains typically require some type of physical therapy during healing to ensure strength, mobility and range of motion are restored to the area.
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