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How do I know if my foot is broken or sprained?
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How do I know if my foot is broken or sprained?

Mar 07, 2019
Prompt care for a foot injury is essential to effective healing. From the moment your foot is harmed, all further activities – even walking – can worsen the problem.
To get the care you need, the first step is to identify the extent of the issue. 

Although both conditions should be taken seriously, a sprain is less traumatic than a break and treatment protocols are different.

How To Know If You Sprained Your Foot

Many people don’t realize right away when they’ve sprained their foot. They might have been in the middle of an ordinary activity and find it hard to imagine how to sprain your foot outside of a rigorous athletic performance. Still, a sprain can happen even while walking normally.

A sprain occurs when some of the delicate ligaments in the foot stretch or tear. This causes the affected area to be inflamed. Most sprains are relatively mild, but severe sprains can cause the ligament to become completely detached from the bone.

Any bending, twisting or pivoting activity may result in a sprain.

Signs of a sprained foot include:

  • Pain and tenderness on the bottom, top or the sides of the foot;
  • Bruising and swelling of the foot;
  • Pain while walking or inability to put weight on the injured foot.

Healing time varies based on seriousness of the injury. Healing time of two to eight weeks is common for mild to moderate injuries, while the worst may require surgery and months of rehabilitation. Depending on specifics, pain relief may include treatments like cold therapy, chiropractic care, targeted physical therapy, light exercise and others.

How To Know If You Broke Your Foot

While a sprain mainly affects the ligaments of the foot, a fracture takes place when a bone is partially or completely broken. When fractures happen, sprains typically also occur alongside, but the reverse is not true. A fracture requires treatment and immobilization right away.

Signs of a broken foot include:

  • Immediate, throbbing pain that may be accompanied by foot deformity;
  • Swelling, bruising and tenderness throughout the affected part of the foot;
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight – these activities should be avoided.

Pain relief options for fractures are more limited than with sprains. While a sprain can benefit from treatments that reduce local swelling, a fracture should be fully evaluated before any pain management strategy is put in place.

A physician should check for complications such as nerve damage, bone infection and new or worsening arthritis and plan pain management accordingly.

For expert care, schedule a pain management appointment at one of our South Florida Multi-Care Medical locations.
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