Bones are the hardest tissues in your body. Although bones are
strong, they can split or break under too much pressure or
force. A broken bone is called a fracture. Fractures can occur
in a variety of ways. The most common causes of fractures are
injuries, prolonged stress from overuse, and bone weakening
diseases, such as Osteoporosis or tumors.
Although the majority of fractures result from motor vehicle
crashes and falls, some fractures occur because of diseases.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition that causes more bone
calcium to be absorbed than is replaced. Calcium is necessary
for hard, healthy bones. Osteoporosis causes a reduction in
bone density and brittle or fragile bones that are vulnerable
to fractures. Type I Osteoporosis usually affects women between
the ages of 51 and 75. Type I Osteoporosis is associated with
spine and wrist fractures. Type II Osteoporosis usually affects
people between the ages of 70 and 85. Type II Osteoporosis is
associated with hip, pelvis, arm, and leg fractures.
In some cases, a snap or cracking sound may be heard when a
bone fractures. You may feel sharp, deep, or intense pain along
with numbness or tingling. Your skin may swell, bruise, or
The place where your fracture occurs may look odd, bent, or out
of place. Sometimes a broken bone may come through the skin.
You may not be able to move or put weight on your limb or
joint, or you may do so with difficulty.
Your doctor can diagnose a fracture with a physical
examination. Your doctor will ask you to describe your injury
and your symptoms. In most cases, imaging tests are ordered to
confirm the fracture.
An X-ray will be ordered to identify the type and location of
your fracture. Some fractures, such as stress fractures, may
not show up on an X-ray. In such cases, Computed Tomography
(CT) scans or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans may be
used to take a more detailed look at your bones. X-rays, CT
scans, and MRI scans are painless procedures.
Surgery is recommended for fractures that do not heal properly
or when the bones have broken in such a way that they are
unlikely to remain aligned when set with a cast. There are
several options for surgery. The type of surgery that you have
will depend on the location and type of your fracture. You can
have general anesthesia for surgery or your doctor can numb the
area with a nerve block.
Surgical options include procedures called an Open Reduction
and Internal Fixation or an Open Reduction and External
Fixation. Open Reduction and Internal Fixation refers to
techniques that use surgical hardware to stabilize a fracture
beneath the skin. Your surgeon will make an incision and place
your bones in the proper position for healing. Your surgeon
will secure the bones together with surgical hardware, such as
rods, screws, or metal plates.
Open Reduction and External Fixation refers to techniques that
use surgical hardware to stabilize a fracture from the outside
of the skin. Your surgeon will make an incision and place your
bones in the proper position for healing. Your surgeon will
secure the bones with surgical pins that are placed through the
outside of the skin. The surgical pins are attached to a metal
frame on the outside of the skin.
Your pain will probably cease before your fracture has
completely healed. Your doctor will limit your activity while
your bone is healing. Physical or occupational therapy usually
follows surgery or casting. Your therapists will work with you
to regain movement, strength, and flexibility that may have
decreased while your bone or joint was immobile.
Recovery time from a fracture is different for everyone. It
depends on the type of fracture you had and the type of
treatment you received. Your doctor will let you know what to
expect. Generally, fractures need about 6 weeks to heal. Some
fractures can take several months to heal. Most people have
good outcomes with treatment and are able to return to their