What's the difference between a bone break and a fracture?

Bone fractures are a common injury. In fact, if you haven't broken a bone yourself, you've likely known someone who has. People and doctors often use the terms "broken bone" and "fractured bone" interchangeably because both refer to instances where excessive force shattered or otherwise damaged the bone. The extent of the damage can range from small hairline fractures to fully shattered bones that require extensive rehabilitation. Either way, immediate medical attention is important for assessing damage and ensuring a successful recovery.

What's the Difference Between a Bone Break and a Fracture?

There is no difference between a bone break and a bone fracture. Medical professionals might be more likely to refer to injuries as fractures, but, ultimately, the two terms describe the same condition. Any time something stronger than the bone itself strikes it, the bone can fracture. This might happen because of a car accident, a bad fall, or a sports injury.

Some bones are weaker than others. People with certain cancers, older people, those with osteoporosis, or individuals battling specific infections might have weaker bones that break more easily. Fractures can also occur when a bone experiences repeated stress, like in runners who might get hairline fractures in their shins. Certain bones can also be more challenging to break than others. Clavicles, or collarbones, are the most commonly broken bone because they're long, slender, and prominent. The femur, or thigh bone, is the thickest and strongest bone, so it's therefore the hardest to break.

Diagnosing Bone Fractures

Diagnosing a fracture yourself can be challenging. During the event, you may have heard a grinding or snapping noise that accompanied the impact or stress. In the moments following, the injury might begin to bruise, swell, or refuse to hold pressure or weight. You'll likely notice tenderness around the area.

Severe breaks can carry more obvious signs and consequences. Sometimes the broken bone might deform a limb or particular area of the body, creating unnatural angles. Bones can also break through the surface of the skin. When there isn't a visual physical injury, medical professionals can use medical imaging technology to look inside the body and assess the bone's condition.

Here are some machines that can help determine if a bone is fractured:

X-Ray Images

One of the most common ways care providers might assess a patient's bones to see if there's a fracture is to use X-ray imaging. This type of imaging uses radiation technology to send x-rays through the body and collect information about what's happening inside. From an X-ray, medical professionals can assess interior structures and see conditions like fractures, arthritis, osteoporosis, and more.

MRI Scans

MRI scans are also a popular tool for evaluating bones. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, and it uses a combination of waves and technologies to produce images of bones, organs, and tissues. Doctors can evaluate MRI scans to see bone damage and assess injuries in the body.

CT Scans

CT scans can also show bone fractures. CT scans use X-ray slices of internal structures to produce more whole views of specific areas of the body. Doctors can view the cross-sectional images in various plains to get a better perspective on the injuries.

Treating Bone Fractures

Treatment for bone fractures can vary depending on the location and extent of the injury. Typically, the body can heal fractures itself. The reason it's important to consult a doctor is to ensure the bones are properly aligned so they heal in the correct position. To do this, they might immobilize the bone using a plaster cast, insert metal rods to help hold the pieces of bones together, or even intervene surgically in more complicated cases.

When the injury first happens, ensure you take care not to move or try to realign the bone yourself. Instead, stop any bleeding and do your best to immobilize the injured area. Ice packs can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Doctors can inform you on how best to care for your fractured bone once they assess the damage.

Recovery Time for Fractures

Recovery time for fractures can depend on the individual, the location of the fracture, and the severity of the break. Most fractures heal in around six to eight weeks, but some can take more or less time. For example, wrist and hand fractures are often quicker to heal than a bone like the femur, which can take up to 20 weeks.

There are three recovery phases for bone fractures:

  • Inflame: The inflammatory phase lasts from around one to two weeks and is when you'll see the most swelling. During this phase, a blood clot forms and becomes a protein mesh that helps the bone repair itself.
  • Repair: During the repair phase, a fracture callus forms with calcium deposits inside. This phase typically lasts about two to three weeks.
  • Rebuild: The final phase, the rebuild phase, comprises actual bone replacing the fracture callus. This phase can last for months following an injury.

When To Consult a Physician

If you think you might have a broken bone, it's important to consult a physician right away. They can order the proper medical imaging to see what's happening in your body and determine if you have a fracture. From there, they can take steps to ensure the bone heals properly, either by giving you a cast or performing a more serious intervention. Fractures can also cause other disruptions within the body and following proper medical guidance can prevent further injury or illness.

Fractured bones can be less than ideal, especially when they prevent you from doing the things you want to do, but the body has incredible strategies for repairing itself. At Grapevine Imaging, we aim to offer the best images that can help physicians assess injuries and provide applicable treatments to our Dallas-Fort Worth patients. Our team can help you get on to the road to recovery fast, with all the tools and information you need to get there. If you have questions about our services or how to connect with us through your physician, contact us.

Before by nelgdev is licensed with CC BY 2.0

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