Acute Injuries: Do I Need an X- Ray?

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Acute Injuries: Do I Need an X- Ray?


Dr. Mark Pundt

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Acute Injuries: Do I Need an X-Ray?

As much as we may try to prevent them, injuries happen, and often when we least expect them! Due to increased activity in the summer months, acute injury is one of the most common reasons patients visit ConvenientMD. Unlike chronic injuries, acute injuries occur suddenly as a result of a fall, hit or other type of trauma. Whether you’re experiencing a sprain, strain, dislocation, or fracture, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of each. In certain cases, an x-ray is required to accurately evaluate, diagnose and treat injuries, especially bone fractures.

Types of Acute Injuries

Sprains & Strains

Sprains and strains affect ligaments and tendons respectively. These often occur as a result of overstretching, or sudden, awkward movement. For example, pivoting while running or walking on an uneven surface. Although painful, sprains and strains commonly heal with rest, ice, and elevation. Thus, an x-ray may not be required if a mild-to-moderate sprain or strain is suspected.


A dislocation is when a bone slips out of a joint. Dislocations usually occur after a fall or blow and are more common in contact sports. You can dislocate your fingers, shoulders, elbows, jaw, ankles, and knees. If you are experiencing a dislocation, the area may look deformed, swollen, bruised, or discolored. After examination, a doctor may order an x-ray to confirm the dislocation, and to determine if  there are any broken bones or further damage to the joint.


A fracture occurs when a bone experiences more force than it can bear. It’s important to note that the terms fracture, break, and crack mean the same thing – in short, that the integrity of the bone is no longer intact. A break is no more serious than a fracture, and vice versa. That being said, there are many different types of fractures based upon how the break occurs. For example, bowing fractures refer to bones that have broken but not completely snapped. Complete fractures occur when the bone snaps in two. Though a provider may be able to evaluate and identify the most likely type of fracture, an accurate diagnosis cannot be made without the confirmation of an x-ray image.

Signs and Symptoms of Broken Bones

Of course, pain is the most obvious symptom. However, pain threshold varies from person to person. Fractures may be associated with additional signs and symptoms, including the following:

  • Bruising & Discoloration: Bruising shows that blood has escaped from the capillaries and is a sign of tissue damage. Though it can occur with any type of injury, bruising as a result of fracture may be particularly extensive and dark in color.
  • Swelling: Swelling often occurs due to blunt trauma, when fluid leakage causes soft tissue such as muscles and skin to swell. Swelling may be a sign that a bone has broken.
  • Crepitus: Crepitus is a condition in which bits of broken bone can be felt underneath the skin after an injury has been sustained. This sensation is not normally felt in the body and may indicate a breakage.
  • Deformity: If a bone is either bent in an odd direction, protrudes from the skin or is otherwise deformed in some way, chances are that a fracture has occurred.

All of these symptoms indicate injuries that should be looked at by a treating provider so as to determine whether or not an x-ray is required.

Do I Need an X-Ray? Visit ConvenientMD to Find Out Today

An x-ray may not always be required, but all injuries should be examined. A thorough physical examination will help to identify the type of injury sustained, develop an effective treatment plan, and prevent further complications. If a fracture goes untreated, you run the risk of experiencing further complications such as bone deformity, permanent nerve damage, muscle and ligament damage and extended pain and swelling.

Injuries happen and it’s never convenient when they do, but we can help make situations like these a little less inconvenient! If you find yourself or a family member in a situation where you may have a broken bone, stop into any ConvenientMD location in Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts to be examined by one of our expert providers. You can just walk in, or check-in online, from 8am-8pm, 7 days a week.