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A broken bone, or fracture, happens when excessive force applied to your bone causes it to break or shatter. Some fractures break the bone completely, while others just cause a crack in the bone. Fracture types vary depending on the circumstances of your injury and the amount of force applied to the bone.
Bones are very strong and are designed to absorb a shock if you fall or are in an accident, but your bones can only absorb so much pressure before breaking. A broken bone commonly occurs for one of the following reasons:
If you have a broken bone, you may feel pain in the bone or surrounding area and may notice that the area is swollen. When the bone breaks, you might hear a popping or snapping sound. If the broken bone is in your arm or leg, the limb may bend at an unusual angle or look deformed. You may notice your skin is bruised or bleeding. If you have a compound fracture, part of the bone may protrude from the wound. It can be hard to move a broken bone and you might have trouble walking if the bone in your leg is broken.
First aid techniques help stabilize a bone until you can reach the hospital. Ice the injury and elevate the injured area to reduce swelling. Gently clean the wound with soap and water to help prevent bacteria from entering the wound and cover it with a bandage. If the broken bone is an arm or a leg, applying a sling or splint will stop the injured area from moving and keep the bone stable. A rolled up magazine or newspaper can be used as a homemade splint. If you have a possible broken upper leg, spine, pelvis, or hip, stay where you are until help arrives and don’t try to move the bone. Attempting to move it could cause more damage to the injured area.
When you reach the hospital, you will get an X-ray to determine if the bone is broken and to identify the type of fracture. The doctor will make sure that your bone is aligned correctly before stabilizing it or placing it in a cast. If the bones are not aligned correctly, the injury won’t heal properly. If you have a broken bone that cannot be put in a cast, such as broken collarbone, your doctor may recommend that you keep the bone still by using a sling or special bandage. If the bone has shattered or if you have a compound fracture, surgery may be needed. During surgery, your doctor might put pins or plates in the bone to hold it together while it heals.
Healing can take weeks or months, depending on the type and severity of the break. Fractures in adults usually take a minimum of six weeks to heal, while a fracture in a child may heal in only a few weeks, according to the ClevelandClinic. After the bone heals, you may need to perform exercises to strengthen muscles that weren’t used while your bone was in a cast. Your doctor may suggest some exercises you can do at home, or you may need to work with a physical therapist to strengthen your muscles and regain flexibility in your joints.
Written by: Holly McGurgan
Published on Jul 16, 2012
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
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