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Facts About Fractures – A Guide to Broken Bones

Facts About Fractures – A Guide to Broken Bones

Your bones protect your heart, lungs and brain. Bones are tough, but even the strongest can break. Here's what you need to know about fractures and how to prevent them. 

Signs a bone may be broken 

Some fractures are obvious. But the signs of a stress fracture or cracked bone can be more subtle. 

Don't ignore these signs: 

  • Swelling or tenderness. 
  • Bruising or discoloration. 
  • A limb that looks out of place. 

Types of fractures  

There are different types of bone fractures, including: 

  • Stable fracture. The broken pieces line up cleanly. 
  • Open fracture. The bone broke the skin when it was fractured. 
  • Transverse fracture. The fracture forms a horizontal line. 
  • Oblique fracture. The break is angled. 
  • Comminuted fracture. The bone broke into more than two pieces. 

When to seek care  

If you fall or have another injury that causes pain, seek medical attention immediately. But even if you don't remember hurting yourself, see the doctor if you have swelling, tenderness or something that doesn't look right. It could be a fracture. After you've been treated, remember that fractures take time to heal fully. It will stop hurting before it's strong enough to support your normal activities. If you've been given a cast or splint, keep using it until your provider says you're healed. If you do have a cast, call your provider if you notice any cracks or soft spots.  

Be proactive  

Talk to your provider now about what you can do to keep your bones strong and healthy. It's not just accidents or falls that lead to fractures. Here are some things that put you more at risk for a broken bone: 

  • Osteoporosis. This disease weakens bones. Women aged 65 and older should schedule a bone density test to check for signs of osteoporosis. 
  • Family history. If your relatives have had fractures, you may be more at risk. 
  • Muscle loss. Strong muscles keep you balanced, prevent falls and lower the risk of fractures. 
  • Overuse. Repetitive motion can cause stress fractures. 

How to prevent fractures  

There's a lot you can do to make broken bones less likely. Here are some prevention strategies: 

  • Get enough calcium and Vitamin D. 
  • Exercise regularly. Weight-bearing activities are especially helpful. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you don't weigh enough, it increases your risk of bone loss. 
  • Don't smoke. Smoking can shrink your bone mass. 
  • Remove tripping hazards at home. Cords, rugs and clutter can all cause falls. 

See your provider to talk about bone health and schedule any screenings you might need. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis or bone fracture, your provider will develop a treatment plan that is right for you. 

If you need to schedule a visit, call your primary care provider or visit . 

Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases