A fracture is a broken bone. It requires medical attention.
When a bone has an outside force exerted upon it, like a blow or a fall, there is potential that it cannot withstand the amount of force and it breaks. That loss of integrity results in a fracture. It is important to remember that a fracture, break, or crack all describe the same situation, an injury to the bone where it has been damaged.
One term is not more serious than another. Fracture, break, and crack all mean the same thing. If the broken bone is the result of major trauma or injury, call 108 or your local emergency number.
Signs and Symptoms
Broken bones hurt. The lining of the bone (periosteum) is rich with nerve endings that can cause pain when inflamed; and the muscles surrounding the fracture go into spasm to prevent movement of the fracture site, and this spasm may intensify the pain.
Bones have a rich blood supply and will bleed when injured. This will cause swelling and the blood that seeps into the surrounding tissue will also cause further pain. The discoloration due to the blood can show up as dark red or purple bruise in the area of the fracture site.
Because muscles and tendons may not be damaged, the person may be able to move the injured extremity. For that reason, just because you can move the injured area, doesn’t mean it’s not broken.
Call for Help Immediately if:
- The person is unresponsive, isn’t breathing or isn’t moving. Begin CPR if there’s no breathing or heartbeat.
- There is heavy bleeding.
- Even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
- The limb or joint appears deformed.
- The bone has pierced the skin.
- The extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or bluish at the tip.
- You suspect a bone is broken in the neck, head or back.
Till the arrival of medical personnel, follow these steps:
- Stop any bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.
- Immobilize the injured area. Don’t try to realign the bone or push a bone that’s sticking out back in. If you’ve been trained in how to splint and professional help isn’t readily available, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites. Padding the splints can help reduce discomfort.
- Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material.
- Treat for shock. If the person feels faint or is breathing in short, rapid breaths lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk and, if possible, elevate the legs.
The time required for bone healing can be affected by many factors, including the type of fracture and the patient’s age, underlying medical conditions, and nutritional status. Bone generally takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal to a significant degree. In general, children’s bones heal faster than those of adults.