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So You Think You've Got a Broken Bone. What's Next?

Apr 18, 2022 Sports Medicine , Urgent Care Share:

After an injury, you’re usually faced with a decision about what to do next. Unless it's a really serious injury, you might be asking yourself:

  • Should I just ice it and see if it gets better?
  • Do I need to go to the emergency room?
  • Or should I just go to the nearest urgent care clinic?

Injuries are painful enough, so if you think you’ve got a break or sprain, you don’t want to also have to question where to get the best care. This guide can help you know what to do the next time you have an injury.

Is it broken? Or is it sprained?

You already know that if you have a broken bone, you need to see a doctor. And sometimes, broken bones are really obvious. For example, if you’ve had a nasty fall and your leg is bent at a weird angle, you’ve probably broken a bone.

But sometimes it can be really hard to tell on your own if a bone is actually broken or it’s just bruised or sprained. This is especially difficult with injuries to the wrist, ankle, and foot. If you trip and catch yourself with your wrist, that pain you’re feeling might be a sprain or it could be a fracture.

Fractures and sprains have many characteristics in common. WIth either a fracture or a sprain, you may experience:

  • Pain at the injury site
  • Limited mobility or an inability to put weight on your injury
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Redness

The severity of your symptoms will vary based on the severity of your injury.

Whether you have an obvious fracture or you’re just not sure whether it’s broken, you’ll need an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis and inform your treatment. And proper treatment is key since the treatment will impact your healing.

Broken bones begin to heal immediately after an injury. Your body is designed to heal and repair itself when you get sick or injured. However, you want to make sure your bones are aligned properly as they start to heal. When a doctor sets a fracture, they’re putting the bones in the correct place for proper healing. Bracing or casting stabilizes the bone while protecting it from further injury.

But broken bones aren’t the only injuries that require treatment. Proper treatment for sprains helps your body heal itself completely and can help protect you from future injury. After any kind of injury, it’s always a good idea to visit a doctor.

Urgent care treatment for injuries

So where’s the best place to go for treatment? Spoiler alert: it isn’t the emergency room. In most cases, breaks, sprains, and strains are not a medical emergency. You do need to get treatment, but the emergency room usually isn’t the best place to get that treatment.

For quick, affordable treatment, your best bet for the treatment of breaks and sprains is an urgent care clinic. Urgent care clinics such as MedHelp have the diagnostic and treatment tools to give you the immediate treatment you need at a fraction of the cost of an emergency room visit.

When you visit an urgent care clinic with a fracture or a sprain, your doctor will examine your injury and order the appropriate x-rays. Our digital x-ray technology allows your urgent care doctor to read your x-ray right away to diagnose your injury. A board-certified radiologist will overread your x-rays within 24 hours to confirm your diagnosis.

After your urgent care doctor diagnoses your injury, they can administer the proper treatment. They can brace or splint your injury in our office if needed to stabilize it until you can see an orthopedic doctor, and your doctor can make referrals for specialized care as needed. Because our x-rays are digital and securely stored in the cloud, we can easily forward images to your orthopedist. You can also opt to see Dr. Blake Perry, our sports medicine doctor on staff at our Highway 280 urgent care clinic.

Your urgent care doctor will also make recommendations for home care, including conservative management to minimize your pain and prevent future injuries. For injuries that are very painful, your doctor can provide injectable anti-inflammatories or non-opioid prescriptions so that you can get some relief.

What to do after a break or sprain

If you think you’ve broken a bone or sprained something, don’t panic. Apply ice to your injury, take some over-the-counter pain relief (such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen), and stabilize your injury however you can. Then, it’s time to visit an urgent care clinic near you.

If your injury happens during a time when an urgent care clinic isn’t open, like late at night, you still don’t need to go to the emergency room. You can wait until the next morning to get treatment. Your doctor will diagnose and treat your injury so that you can heal and get back to doing the things you love.

While most sports injuries truly aren’t an emergency, there are a few times in which you need to seek out emergency medical care. Visit your closest emergency room if:

  • You have a wound at the site of your injury or bone is protruding from your skin
  • You're unable to walk, talk, or stay awake after your injury
  • You have multiple injuries
  • You're experiencing numbness at the site of your injury
  • You faint or lose consciousness

You should also visit the emergency room for possible fractures in your face, skull, spine, pelvis, or hips.

While we recommend that you visit your primary care doctor for most medical issues, an urgent care clinic is usually your best bet for injuries such as broken bones or sprains. We have the tools needed to provide a quick, accurate diagnosis and compassionate treatment without the cost or hassle of the emergency room.

All MedHelp urgent care clinics are equipped with digital x-rays to accurately diagnose and treat your injury. We’re also open seven days a week and have extended hours on weekdays since injuries rarely happen during normal business hours. Walk-ins are always welcome for urgent care visits.

Think you've got a broken bone?

Get quick diagnosis and treatment at MedHelp urgent care clinics. With five clinics in the Birmingham metro area, we’re where you need us when you need us most.