5 Signs You May Have a Fracture (and What You Should Do)

Besides forming the framework that gives your body its structure, your bones help protect your organs from trauma, generate new blood cells, maintain a storehouse of essential minerals, and give your muscles a way to leverage your joints when you move.  

Healthy bones may be strong, supportive, and resilient, but they’re also vulnerable to injury — every year in the United States, more than 1 million people suffer a fracture, or broken bone. While many fractures happen in an accident or during sports, some are the result of an underlying bone condition like osteoporosis. 

The fracture care experts at Orthopaedic Associates of Reading Ltd. know that it isn’t always easy to tell when a bone is broken. With that in mind, here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of a fracture, and what you should do when you suspect you have one. 

Bone fracture basics

Bone tissue is rigid enough to give your body structure and support, but it’s also flexible enough to provide a certain amount of give under pressure. Most fractures occur when an outside force pushes a bone beyond its inherent flexibility.  

The severity of a fracture is usually determined by the magnitude of force that caused it: A force that’s only slightly greater than a bone’s breaking point may create a small hairline crack, while intense force may cause a bone to shatter. Most fractures are caused by one of the following:

Physical trauma

Most fractures are a result of physical trauma, which is often from a car accident, a slip-and-fall incident, or on the sports field. 

Repetitive stress

Repetitive motions that fatigue your muscles can put more pressure on your bones, increasing your risk of developing a stress fracture. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are more prone to these common overuse injuries. 

Osteoporosis

This progressive condition weakens your bones and makes them more porous, leaving them increasingly susceptible to fractures, even during routine activities.  

Open vs. closed fractures

Although bones can break in a variety of different ways, all fractures fall into one of two general categories: simple (closed) fractures and compound (open) fractures. 

Any fracture that doesn’t break the skin is considered simple, or closed. Most stable fractures, partial bone breaks, and hairline cracks qualify as simple fractures. Because they may feel like a severe sprain or even a torn muscle, simple fractures can be difficult to diagnose without an X-ray.   

Compound, or open, fractures occur when the skin is broken by either the blow that caused the fracture or the fracture itself. Whether or not the bone is protruding from the wound, compound fractures carry a higher risk of infection.  

Open fractures tend to be the most obvious, particularly if the bone is visible or protruding through the skin. Closed fractures can also be obvious, however, especially when they cause a visible deformity, such as an unnatural bend or movement where there is no joint. 

Common fracture symptoms

Unfortunately, many broken bones aren’t completely obvious from the outset. A stress fracture may cause only minor tenderness and swelling that gets better with rest, while a partial stable break may be less painful or limiting than you’d expect.

Many fractures cause an audible popping or snapping sensation as they occur, which is usually followed by intense pain and/or limited movement. The five most common fracture symptoms are:

  1. Intense or ongoing pain that increases with movement or pressure
  2. Difficulty moving or using the affected area in a normal way
  3. Significant or persistent swelling accompanied by warmth or redness
  4. Moderate to severe bruising that makes the area feel tender
  5. Intermittent pain that’s brought on by activity and relieved by rest 

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it’s important to seek a proper diagnosis as soon as possible; fractures that don’t receive proper care can heal incorrectly or get worse as you continue to use the damaged bone.

Prompt and proper treatment

If you suspect you have a fracture, it’s important to keep the injured area immobilized. If you believe you’ve broken a weight-bearing bone in your foot, ankle, leg, or pelvis, call 9-1-1 so you can get to the local emergency room as soon as possible without compounding your injury. 

If your fracture is in a non-weight-bearing bone like your arm or wrist, someone else may be able to drive you to the hospital or even straight to one of our OAR offices.  

Here at OAR, we have on-site X-ray and MRI machines for a rapid and reliable diagnosis; we also provide complete splinting and casting services as well as 24-hour surgical services for complex breaks. 

As a Level I trauma center, OAR is the place to go for comprehensive fracture care in the greater Berks County area. 

To learn more, call your nearest office in Hamburg, Reading, or Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, today, or use our online booking tool to request an appointment with one of our fracture care specialists any time. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

 

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