Bone fractures, also known as broken bones, happen to millions of people a year. Sports injuries, car crashes, or falls typically cause them. They need time to recover. Your healthcare provider provides a number of options for treating fractures.
What’s a bone fracture?
Lay people (non-professionals) widely use the word “break.”
Among doctors, especially bone specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, “break” is a much less common word when talking about bones.
A crack (not just a break) in the bone is also a fracture. Any bone in the body may have fractures. There are a variety of different ways in which a bone can fracture.
There are many different ways in which a bone can fracture. For example, a bone break that does not damage the surrounding tissue or tear into the skin is a closed fracture.
On the other hand, one that affects the surrounding skin and penetrates the skin is known as a compound fracture or an open fracture. Compound fractures are usually more severe than simple fractures because they are, by definition, infected.
Many human bones are extremely powerful and can stand up to fairly strong impacts or forces in general. However, bone fracture can happen if the impact is too strong or wrong with the bone. The older we become, the less strength our bones can handle.
The older we get, the less force our bones can handle. Because children’s bones are more elastic, they tend to be different when they have fractures. Children often have growth plates at the end of their bones – bone-growing areas – which are damageable.
Here are several main fracture points. We provided more detailed and supporting information in the main article.
- Falls and accidents cause the majority of bone fractures.
- If an illness causes bone fractures, then they are referred to as pathological fractures.
- A compound fracture is one that causes damage to the overlying skin as well.
- There are a variety of different types of fractures, including avulsion, comminuted, and hairline fractures.
- Bone healing is a natural process. Treatment revolves around providing optimal bone conditions to repair itself.
What type of bone fractures are there?
Health care providers can typically categorize bone fractures based on their features. The categories shall include:
- Closed or open fractures. If the injury does not break open the skin, doctors consider it a closed fracture. If the skin open, it is called an open fracture or a compound fracture.
- Complete fractures. The break goes into the bone completely, separating it in two.
- Displaced fractures. A gap exists where the bone breaks. Sometimes, this injury needs surgery to fix it.
- Partial fractures. The break isn’t going all the way through the bone.
- Stress fractures. The bone breaks and is often difficult to find with imaging.
The health care professional may add extra terminology to describe partial, full, open, and closed fractures. These terms shall include:
- Avulsion: The tendon or ligament removes half of the bone. Ligaments bind bones to other bones, while tendons anchor muscles to bones.
- Comminuted: The bone breaks into several different parts.
- Compression: The bone crushes or flattens.
- Impacted: The bones drive together.
- Oblique: The break is diagonally around the bone.
- Spiral: A fracture spiral around the bone.
- Transverse: The break goes into the bone in a straight line.
Symptoms and signs of fractured bones include:
- Swelling or bruising of the bone
- Deformity of the arm or leg
- Pain in the wounded area worsens when you move the area or apply pressure.
- Inability to support weight on the affected foot, ankle, or leg
- Loss of function in the wounded area
- Bone protruding from the skin in open fractures
- A fall, blast, or other traumatic accident cause fracture.
A condition (such as cancer) cause pathological fractures. It weakens the bones and can occur with little to no trauma. Osteoporosis, a condition in which bones are thin and losing strength as they age, causes 1.5 million fractures per year in the U.S.—especially in the hip, wrist, and spine.
A bad fall or a car crash causes many fractures. Strong bones are extremely hard and resilient and can withstand surprisingly powerful impacts. As people age, two causes raise their risk of fractures: weaker bones and a greater risk of falling.
Children, who appear to have a more active lifestyle than adults, are also vulnerable to fractures. People with chronic disorders and illnesses that may damage their bones are at higher risk of fractures. Examples include osteoporosis, infection, or tumors. As mentioned above, doctors refer to this type of fracture as a pathological fracture.
Stress fractures, caused by repeated stress and strains, usually seen in professional athletes, are common causes of fractures.
Your doctor will decide your specific treatment for a fracture based on:
- Your age, general health, and medical history;
- The extent of the condition;
- Your tolerance for specific medicines, treatments, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the condition
- Your opinion or choice;
Treatment is directed at controlling discomfort, encouraging recovery, preventing complications and restoring regular use to fractured areas.
An open fracture needs emergency treatment. Seek urgent medical attention for this form of fracture.
Treatment may contain:
- Cast Immobilisation
Plastic or fiberglass cast is the most common fracture therapy type. It is because most fractured bones can heal successfully after the surgeon repositions them. A cast has been added to keep broken ends in a proper place as they are healing.
- Functional cast or brace
The cast or brace allows restricted or “controlled” movements of nearby joints. This treatment is desirable for some, but not all, of fractures.
Traction is usually used to align bones or bones with a gentle, steady pull.
- External fixing
Doctors insert metal pins or screws in the fractured bone above and below the fracture point. The pins or screws are fixed to a metal bar outside the skin. This device is a stabilizing frame that keeps the bones in the right location while they are healing.
- Open Reduction and Internal Fixing
The bone fragments are first repositioned (reduced) in their normal alignment during this operation. They are then fixed together with special screws or by attaching metal plates to the bone’s outer surface. Doctors may also keep fragments together by inserting rods down into the marrow space of the bone center.
Self-care after a bone fracture
Follow the recommendation of the doctor, but the general suggestions include:
- Avoid direct heat, such as hot water bottles.
- Rest your limb as much as possible.
- Use the techniques that nurses have shown you to walk or perform day-to-day activities. For, e.g., if you use crutches incorrectly, you risk further injury.
- Stop lifting or driving until the fracture has healed.
The Bottom Line
Healing time for broken bone varies from person to person, based on the seriousness of the injury. For example, a broken leg will take longer than a broken arm or a broken wrist. Also, as you age, you tend to heal more slowly. On average, health care providers say it takes six to eight weeks to recover from fractured bones.