Fractures, Sprains, and Strains - Diagnosis

Some types of fractures can be diagnosed easily by simply observing the damaged area. In the case of a compound fracture, for example, the broken bone can actually be seen protruding through the skin. If the fracture cannot be seen clearly, an X ray is usually the next step. Most X rays show the presence of a damaged or broken bone. In some cases, X rays can themselves be questionable. For example, a broken rib is often difficult to see on a single X ray. A series of X rays taken from different angles may be necessary to diagnose a fractured rib.

One kind of fracture that may be difficult to diagnose is a stress fracture. A stress fracture is a very small break in a bone that may not show up on an X ray. A stress fracture can sometimes be diagnosed with a tuning fork. A tuning fork is a metal instrument used in tuning musical instruments. It is placed on the skin over the bone in which a stress fracture is suspected. If the patient reports increased pain, a stress fracture may be present.

Diagnosis of Sprains and Strains

In the case of sprains and strains, patients may actually recognize their own condition due to the swelling and pain. In mild cases, they may decide not to seek medical advice. Grade II and III sprains, however, are often seen by a doctor. The usual procedure is to have an X ray taken of the injured site. The X ray can be used to distinguish between a sprain and a fracture.

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