What are fractures?

A fracture is a broken bone. Fractures can range in severity from a crack (known as a hairline or greenstick fracture), to a complete break and separation of a bone that may protrude through your skin (known as an open or compound fracture).

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Fractures can occur in any bone in the body, but the most common fractures are of bones in the extremities and of the ribs. Fractures are most common in young adults who are adventurous in nature, and in the older population as bones become fragile.

A closed fracture is one in which the bones do not break the skin, while in an open (also known as compound) fracture, one or more bone fragments protrudes through the skin. Open fractures are more difficult to treat and have a greater risk of infection. Stress fractures are tiny cracks that develop in bone due to repeated force, such as overuse injuries.

Some fractures are mild and require little treatment other than pain relievers, icing, and time to heal. Other fractures, however, can be very serious and can put important nearby tissue, such as the spinal cord, large vessels, or the brain, at risk.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms associated with a fracture including loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, a bone that has broken through the skin, or any suspected fracture of the neck, back, or skull.

Seek prompt medical care if you have a fracture without the serious symptoms above, such as a broken arm or hand.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of fractures?

Symptoms of fractures commonly include pain, swelling, bruising, and a change of shape at the surface of the skin due to the protrusion of a bone in the affected region. More rarely, a fracture can break through your skin, resulting in bone protruding from a wound.

Common symptoms of fractures

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CAUSES

What causes fractures?

Your bones are some of the strongest tissues in your body. If an impact or a force is stronger than the strength of the bone on which it is acting, then a fracture may result. The most common causes of fracture are falls, motor vehicle accidents, and a weakening of the bone called osteoporosis.

What are the risk factors for fractures?

A number of factors increase the ri... Read more about fracturescauses

TREATMENTS

How are fractures treated?

Fractures are treated in a variety of ways. The intention of most treatments is to realign the fractured bones in their original orientation and then to eliminate movement so the bones can heal. Realignment of the bone pieces in a fracture is known as reduction of the fracture. Treatment can vary from using ice and pain relievers (for a mild broken nose) to immediate emergency surgery.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles


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