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Broken vs bruised bone: How do you know you have a fracture?

Have you ever experienced that brief period of fear following a fall or injury in which you suddenly felt pain in your leg or arm? Maybe you’ve seen an odd discolouration or swelling around the injured location, and you’re not sure if that’s a bruise or a broken bone.

Although it might be challenging to distinguish between a bruise and a bone fracture, doing so is essential for the right course of care and speedy recovery. Knowing the telltale signs and symptoms of each kind of injury will enable you to make well-informed choices regarding when to seek medical assistance and what kind of care to receive.

Symptoms of a bone bruise

  • Hard lump in the area
  •  Pain and tenderness in the injured area
  • Swelling and stiffness in the area
  • Discolouration around the area
  • Restricted range of motion in the affected joint or limb

Symptoms of a fracture

  • Numbness and tingling.
  • Swelling, bruising, or bleeding around the area.
  • Severe pain that may get worse with movement.
  • Broken skin with bone protruding.
  • Restricted range of motion or inability to move a limb or put weight on the leg.
  • Crepitus, a “crunchy” sensation that occurs when broken bits of bone rub together.

Key differences between broken and bruised bones

While bone fractures and bruises can have similar symptoms, there are key differences between the two. The main differences are:


More frequently than not, bone fractures cause localised pain that is more intense than bruising. Although bruises can cause pain as well, it usually seems less intense and more dispersed.


Compared to bruises, bone fractures typically result in more swelling, which may be more noticeable in the area surrounding the broken bone. Swelling can also result from bruises, but it usually happens more subtly and across a wider area.


While bruising usually does not impair mobility, bone fractures might make it difficult or impossible to move the affected area.


While bruising doesn’t usually result in a noticeable deformity in the affected area, bone fractures do.

It’s critical to pay attention to the particular symptoms in order to distinguish between a bruise and a fractured bone. You may have a bone fracture and need to visit a doctor if you have excruciating pain, have trouble moving the affected area, or see a noticeable deformity. On the other hand, bruises often do not affect movement or result in deformity, however they may be accompanied by mild to moderate pain and tenderness.

Do broken bones bruise?

When a bone is fractured, it can cause serious damage to the surrounding soft tissues, including blood vessels, muscles, ligaments and tendons. This injury has the potential to cause apparent bruising around the affected area by causing bleeding beneath the skin. Depending on the location and kind of fracture, the bruising may vary in intensity. The bruises may be little and scarcely perceptible in certain situations, whereas they may be larger and more obvious in others.

It’s crucial to remember that not every fracture will cause bruises. For instance, stress fractures or hairline fractures may not result in obvious bruising, yet they can nevertheless be extremely painful. In a similar vein, certain bruises can happen even in the absence of a fracture.

When to seek medical attention

It’s critical to get medical help if you think you may have a serious bruising or a fractured bone. Generally speaking, you should get medical help if:

  • You suffer from excruciating pain that does not go away with rest or medication.
  • You find it challenging to relocate the impacted area.
  • You observe a noticeable abnormality in the impacted region.
  • You feel tingling or numbness in the afflicted area.
  • You exhibit symptoms of infection, such as fever.
  • You’ve previously had osteoporosis or other bone disorders.
  • Timely medical intervention can guarantee accurate diagnosis and treatment, hence increasing the likelihood of a complete recovery.

Closing thoughts

It can be challenging to distinguish between a bruise and a fracture. In any case, it hurts, and the only way to make sure your bone heals properly is to get medical attention. Given the fact that the two have similar symptoms and causes, it can be difficult to distinguish if a bone is fractured or bruised. Medical professionals can use diagnostic testing (such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging test) to distinguish between the two. With conservative care, bone fractures and bruising often heal in a month or two.

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