What is a Fracture?

A “fracture” is the clinical term for a broken bone or broken cartilage. Trauma to the bone is usually the cause of a fracture, but some conditions, such as osteoporosis, can make fractures more likely. Bones become weaker as a person ages, so seniors are more prone to this kind of injury.

There are many different kinds of fractures, such as open, closed, displaced, and non-displaced. An open fracture is where a piece of the bone breaks through the skin, while a closed fracture has no open wound. Displaced fractures occur when a bone snaps into pieces. In a non-displaced fracture, the bone can crack a little or all the way through, but it doesn’t move, so it still has proper alignment. These kinds of fractures can be further sub-categorized. For instance, an oblique fracture occurs when a break has a curved pattern.

What are the Symptoms of a Fracture?

Pain in the area of the fracture is the main symptom. However, losing the ability to correctly move the affected area is also a symptom. The fracture may cause swelling, bruising, bleeding, tenderness, deformation of the affected area. If the fracture is in the leg bones, then the patient may develop a limp.

Fracture Causes

A bone fracture can occur due to a number of reasons. It can be caused by trauma to the bone – a fall or a car accident can cause a bone fracture. Stress fractures are also common in individuals who participate in certain sporting activities like gymnastics, football or some track and field events.

Increased activity can also cause stress fractures. This often occurs to individuals who suddenly move from a sedentary lifestyle to an active workout regime, or those who rapidly adjust the frequency and intensity of their workout sessions.

Osteoporosis, a disorder that weakens bones can also make it easier for fractures to happen. Women, especially those who have irregular or absent menses, are at a higher risk of experiencing stress fractures due to this factor. A fracture can also occur as a result of a repetitive motion that tires the muscles. Stress fractures resulting from repetitive motion is common in athletes.

Other common bone fracture risk factors include foot problems and poor nutrition.

How is a Fracture Treated?

If the trauma that caused the fracture has also affected surrounding nerves, blood vessels, and tissues, then emergency attention is required. Serious fractures can cause osteomyelitits, or infection of the bone and require immediate treatment.

Minor fractures or fractures in children may heal within a few weeks after treatment. Serious fractures or fractures in older adults may take months to heal. If bones need to be reconnected, then treatment usually involves internal fixation surgery. If bones only need to be stabilized, then external fixation is typically used. Splints and casts are used once the bones are immobilized. For serious injury, metal rods or further surgeries may be required. Once the bones have healed, physical therapy may be needed to restore proper range of motion.

Fracture Prevention

There are a number of things you can do to protect your bones from fractures. Top of the list is bone protection. It is never too late to start improving your bones’ health. Incorporating enough calcium and vitamin D into your diet is crucial to building strong and dense bones.

Exercise is key to strengthening your bones. There are two types of exercises that can help to build and maintain dense bones: muscle strengthening and weight-bearing exercises. Learn about these exercises and how you can include them in your workout routine.

Weight management can also help you improve balance and avoid falls that can cause a fracture to the bone. Again, diet and exercise play an important role in weight management. Other fracture prevention mechanisms include the use of safety gear during workouts and sporting activities and avoiding lifestyle choices that can predispose you to accidents and falls. These include driving under the influence, and chronic alcohol consumption that impedes your balance.