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How to tell if a bone is fractured or bruised

December 14, 2023 | Courtesy of

Determining the difference between a bone being fractured or bruised can be difficult. Either way, it’s painful—and getting medical treatment is your best bet to ensure your bone heals properly. Dr. Danielle Magrini, fellowship-trained pediatric sports medicine specialist at Orlin & Cohen, explains the difference between a bone fracture and a bruise, along with advice on how to treat each injury.

What is a bone fracture?

A bone fracture is also known as a broken bone. It’s an injury commonly caused by a traumatic incident, like a fall, car accident, or sports mishap. Bone fractures occur when there’s too much pressure put on the bone, causing the bone to fracture (or break). There are many types of bone fractures—from complete to partial. Your doctor will determine the type of fracture from how the injury happened, your symptoms, medical history, and an X-ray.

When it comes to reducing your risk of a fracture, bone health can make all the difference. That’s because healthy bones have greater density and strength, giving them a better chance of withstanding impact or stress. Learn more about how to keep your bones healthy.

How to treat a bone fracture

A bone fracture is a serious medical injury. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your bone heals properly.


If the injury makes it difficult to bear weight and you’re experiencing intense pain, you should see a doctor, who will likely recommend an X-ray. This quick diagnostic test identifies most fractures.

At Orlin & Cohen, diagnostic imaging is part of your comprehensive orthopedic care, and every one of our locations has X-ray technology on site so you can get the test you need as soon as your first appointment. Your results are immediately available to your doctor so that you can begin your treatment as soon as possible.


Based on where you fractured your bone and what caused it, your doctor may recommend these options:

  • Splint: Typically used for slight fractures, a splint holds the bone in place while it heals and is more flexible than a cast.

  • Brace: The most commonly used brace is a walking boot. Braces can stabilize the fractured bone, providing structural support that aligns bones and limits movement to promote healing.

  • Sling: These devices help support the bone to keep it from moving. Slings are commonly used on arm, shoulder, or elbow fractures.


Most fractures heal within six to 12 weeks. To speed up your recovery time—rest. Living with a fractured bone can be challenging, and pushing yourself too hard to get back to your normal activities can make things worse.

What is a bone bruise?

Your bones are living tissue, and they can get bruised just like your skin. If your bone gets hit hard, your bone can bleed without being broken. The blood that’s stuck under the surface of your bone after an injury is what causes the bone to bruise, explains Cleveland Clinic.

While a bone bruise is less severe than a bone fracture, it’s still painful. You might experience swelling or discoloration (commonly referred to as black and blue) because of the blood and fluid that’s built up around the injury.

How to treat a bone bruise

Healing from a bone bruise can take as little as a few weeks or months, depending on how severe the injury was. Here are a few things you can do to speed up your recovery process.


Relieve pain and limit swelling with ice. Be careful not to apply ice packs directly to the skin; wrap it in a towel or cloth. Use ice on and off in 15-minute intervals.


Resting the bone is critical to helping it heal. See what you can do to avoid unnecessary pressure or movement to the area.


To reduce swelling, try to elevate the injury above the level of your heart. Propping up the injury with pillows can help.


Limiting movement can help heal a bruised bone, but sometimes that’s tricky to do on your own. Wearing a sling can hold the bone in place and keep it still while it heals.


A bone bruise can only be diagnosed with an MRI. This diagnostic test is usually recommended 10 days to two weeks after the injury if other treatment hasn’t helped. An MRI shows more details of your bone than an X-ray and allows your specialist to view surrounding tissue, which could help them diagnose a bone bruise or pattern of repetitive stress to the area.

At Orlin & Cohen, diagnostic imaging is part of your comprehensive orthopedic care, and MRI technology is available at offices throughout our network. Your results are available when your doctor needs them so you can begin your treatment as soon as possible. Request an appointment and get the care you need to feel better, faster.

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