A fracture is a broken bone. It can range from a thin crack to a complete break. Bone can fracture crosswise, lengthwise, in several places, or into many pieces. Most fractures happen when a bone is impacted by more force or pressure than it can support.
Fractures commonly happen because of car accidents, falls, or sports injuries. Other causes are low bone density and osteoporosis, which cause weakening of the bones. Overuse or repetitive motions can tire muscles and put more pressure on the bone. This causes stress fractures. This is more common in athletes.
If you suspect you have a fracture, seek medical help immediately.
Most fractures are accompanied by intense pain when the initial injury occurs. It may become worse when you move or touch the injured area. In some cases, you may even pass out from the pain. You may also feel dizzy or chilled from shock.
When a fracture happens, it’s classified as either open or closed:
- Open fracture (also called compound fracture): The bone pokes through the skin and can be seen, or a deep wound exposes the bone through the skin.
- Closed fracture (also called simple fracture). The bone is broken, but the skin is intact.
An X-ray will be use as a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to make pictures of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film. In some cases, an MRI or CT scan may also be ordered.
The goal of treatment is to put the pieces of bone back in place, control the pain, give the bone time to heal, prevent complications, and restore normal use of the fractured area.
- Splint or cast. This immobilizes the injured area to keep the bone in alignment. It protects the injured area from motion or use while the bone heals.
- Traction. Traction is the use of a steady pulling action to stretch certain parts of the body in a certain direction. The purpose of traction is to stretch the muscles and tendons around the broken bone to help the bone ends to align and heal.
- Surgery. Surgery may be needed to put certain types of broken bones back into place. Occasionally, internal fixation (metal rods or pins located inside the bone) or external fixation devices (metal rods or pins located outside of the body) are used to hold the bone fragments in place while they heal.
HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR A FRACTURE TO HEAL
Usually, the fractured bone area is immobilized for 2-8 weeks. The duration depends on which bone is affected and whether there are any complications, such as a blood supply problem or an infection.
Fractures can take months to heal as broken bones “knit” back together when new bone is formed between the broken parts.