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Broken Bones

Broken bones, or fractures, are common. They occur when the physical force exerted on the bone is stronger than the bone itself.

There are many types of fractures, including displaced, non-displaced, open and closed:

  • In some cases, the bone may not break at all, but merely bend. This is called a greenstick fracture and is more common in children.
  • Displaced and non-displaced fractures refer to the way the bone breaks.
    • In a displaced fracture, the bone snaps into two or more parts and moves so that the two ends are not lined up straight.
    • In a non-displaced fracture, the bone cracks either part or all of the way through, but does move and maintains its proper alignment.
    • If the bone is in many pieces, it’s called a comminuted fracture.
  • A closed fracture is when the bone breaks, but there is no puncture or open wound in the skin.
  • An open fracture is one in which the bone breaks through the skin. It may then recede back into the wound and not be visible through the skin. With an open fracture, there is a risk of a deep bone infection.
  • A simple fracture is a closed non-displaced break, or greenstick fracture.

Commonly broken bones include the collarbone, arm, wrist, hip and ankle. Symptoms of a fracture include swelling, bruising, pain and loss of function in the injured area. Swelling generally occurs quickly. An X-ray can confirm if a bone is broken. Proper splinting or immobilization can minimize pain and long-term effects.

Other treatments include rest, ice and compression. Elevation helps decrease pain and can speed healing. Ibuprofen is commonly used to decrease inflammation and relieve pain. Other pain relievers can be prescribed if needed.