A bone fracture is a break in the continuity of a bone, most commonly due to high force impact or stress by falling, being hit by an object, or other trauma. Fractured bones can either be displaced or non-displaced, open or closed.
In a displaced fracture, the bone breaks into two or more parts and moves so that the two ends are not aligned. Meanwhile, in a non-displaced fracture, the broken bone does not move and maintains its proper alignment.
As the name implies, a closed fracture refers to when the bone breaks without any puncture or open wound visible in the skin. An open fracture occurs when the bone breaks through the skin, but it may not be visible if it recedes back into the wound.
It's nearly impossible to determine if you have a fracture or not without an x-ray examination, especially in a closed and non-displaced fracture. But there are common signs and symptoms of fractured bone after an injury that you should know:
Three most common signs of a bone fracture are the pain, swelling or deformity. All bone fracture may cause pain except if the patient can’t perceive the pain such as in spinal cord injury or diabetic neuropathy. Referred pain elsewhere is also possible as in knee pain due to hip injuries, especially among children.
The pain may be worse when it is touched, pressed or moved. In case of a small break or just a crack, you may not feel much pain or realise that you've broken a bone.
Swelling can also be a sign that the bone is broken. Fluids and sometimes blood leak into soft tissues like muscle, fat, and skin. Injuries cause this extra fluid to swell up the soft tissues, making it taut or hard. Bruising or the discolouration of the injured part may also occur.
It can be difficult to tell whether a bone is broken if it is not displaced. Deformity of an arm or leg can be seen when it bends in places where it is not supposed to bend. While in open fracture, the bone may be visibly protruded from the skin.
Crepitus refers to the palpable or audible grating or crunching sensation produced by motion. This sensation may or may not be accompanied by discomfort. If your doctor feels crepitus sensation under the skin, it may be due to broken bits of bone that are rubbing together.
- Loss of function
The inability to bear weight or move in the normal range may occur. But, if you are still able to move the joint above or below an injury, it does not guarantee that the bone is not broken. Instead, it only implies that the muscles and tendons that move the joint are still working. Most of the time, fractured bone may still functioning, the only limiting factor to movement is the pain.
On top of that, you may feel faint, dizzy or sick as a result of the shock of breaking bone.
Other structures can be damaged as well when a bone breaks. Nerve inflammation or injury may cause numbness and tingling. If the artery at the fracture site is torn, kinked or clots off, the limb may be in cool condition with no pulse detected as blood is prevented from circulating.
You should seek medical help as soon as possible if you think you have fractured a bone. This is to avoid serious complication and permanent deformity. Given proper intervention and healing time, you should be on your recovery path with optimal time and support.
Fractures and breaks can soon add up to an expensive hospital trip to ensure you have the best health insurance for you, take a look at the ultimate guide to health insurance in Thailand.