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What is a fracture?

A "fracture" is another word for a broken bone. There are different kinds of fractures, depending on how the bone breaks. When a bone breaks, it might crack, break all the way through, or shatter. If a broken bone sticks out of the skin or can be seen through a wound, doctors call it an "open" fracture. If the bone does not stick out of the skin or cannot be seen through a wound, doctors call it a "closed" fracture.

People with a condition called osteoporosis have a higher chance of getting a fracture. That's because osteoporosis makes a person's bones weak. This condition is especially common in older women.

What are the symptoms of a fracture?

Symptoms depend on which bone breaks and the kind of break it is. Common symptoms can include:

Pain, swelling, or bruising over the area

The area looking abnormal, bent, or not the usual shape

Not being able to move or put weight on that part of the body

Numbness in the area of the broken bone

How are fractures treated?

Treatment depends, in part, on the type of fracture you have and how serious it is. The goal of treatment is to have the ends of the broken bone line up with each other so that the bone can heal.

If the ends of your broken bone are already in line with each other, your doctor will put a cast, splint, or brace on that part of the body. The cast, splint, or brace will keep your bone in the correct position so that it can heal.

If the ends of your broken bone are not in line with each other, your doctor will need to line them up. To do this, he or she can move your bone to the correct position without doing surgery, and then put a cast, splint, or brace on.

He or she can also do surgery to put your bone back in the correct position. This can involve:

Using screws, pins, rods, or plates to fix a bone inside the body

Putting pins or screws through the skin and into the bone, and then attaching the pins or screws to a bar that is outside the skin

Your doctor will also treat your pain. If you have a severe fracture, he or she can prescribe a strong pain medicine. If you have a mild fracture, he or she might recommend that you take an over-the-counter medicine for your pain. Over-the counter medicines include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

After your bone heals, your doctor might recommend that you work with a physical therapist (exercise expert). The physical therapist can show you exercises and stretches to strengthen your muscles and help your joints move more easily.

How long do fractures take to heal?

It depends on the body part involved and the type of fracture. Most fractures take weeks to months to heal. Fractures in children usually heal faster than fractures in adults.

Can I do anything to improve the healing process?

Yes. It's important to follow all of your doctor's instructions while your fracture is healing. For example, he or she will probably recommend that you eat a healthy diet that includes getting enough calcium, protein, and vitamin D. He or she will also probably recommend that you:

Not play certain sports

Not smoke – If you smoke, it can take longer for your fracture to heal.

Not get your cast wet, if you have a cast that shouldn't get wet

When should I call my doctor or nurse?

After treatment, your doctor or nurse will tell you when to call him or her. In general, you should call if:

Your pain, swelling, or other symptoms get worse

You get a fever

You can't move part of your body

You get your cast wet, and it's not supposed to get wet

ReferenceThis topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 12, 2020.

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