The human skeleton, by adulthood, has 206 bones. That’s a lot of potential for something to break. Fortunately, our bones are surprisingly strong. However, as we age we begin to lose bone density, making the bones more susceptible to a break or fracture. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are essential for maintaining strong bones. After all, sticks and stones may break your bones if you’re not getting enough Vitamin D, calcium and exercise.
Types of Fractures
Simply put: a fracture is a break in the bone. However, there are several different types of fractures:
- Stable fracture. There is a break, but the bones are still properly aligned.
- Stress fracture. Tiny crack(s) in the bone.
- Closed or simple fracture. The bone is broken, but does not puncture the skin.
- Open or compound fracture. The skin in punctured by the break.
- Transverse fracture. The bone breaks perpendicular to the length of the bone.
- Oblique fracture. The break is diagonal across the bone.
- Comminuted fracture. The bone is shattered or has splintered into several fragments.
Causes of Fractures
Fractures can occur for various reasons. Those diagnosed with osteoporosis are more susceptible to breaking a bone. Osteoporosis is a disease that reduces the bone density leaving them weak and more liable to break. Something as small as bending over to sneeze or stepping wrong can cause a fracture.
Broken bones can also be trauma-induced. Car accidents, falling, even from a short distance, or a high-impact sport can all result in a trip to the ER. Overuse or repetitive motion injuries can also be the culprit of a crack. Overusing certain muscles can weaken them over time, leaving the bone more vulnerable to injury, such as stress fractures. This type of fracture is more common in athletes participating in sports that involve running or jumping repeatedly.
How the Body Heals Fractures
When a bone breaks, the body works quickly to heal the damage. A blood clot and protective callus form to protect the newly exposed area. New bones cells grow from either side of the break, branching out towards eachother until the gap is closed. The callus is absorbed into the new bone growth and the bone is completely healed.
Diagnosis of Fractures
Our orthopedic physicians will examine your injury. They will also disuss with you how the injury occurred, examine your overall health and review your medical history to ensure there are no underlying issues. The doctors also perform x-rays to confirm the bone is, in fact, broken, the type and exact location of the break.
Treatment of Fractures
Rest and immobilization are required to heal a broken bone. This can be achieved with a cast once the bone is positioned correctly. A brace can be used to allow some controlled movement.
More serious breaks may require surgery. An external fixator uses metal pins, screwed around the fracture, that are afixed to an external bar to stabilize the bones so they heal correctly. An open reduction and internal fixation involves realigning the bones and holding them in place with metal rods, plates and/or screws.
The healing process can take anywhere from several weeks up to a year, depending on the severity of the break, your bones’ state of health and how well you follow your doctor’s advice. Rehabilitation may be required for weakened muscles due to prolonged immobility.
Fractures should not be left untreated. To avoid complications in the healing process, please schedule an appointment by calling 618-288-9460. You can also visit www.c4ao.com for more information.