The difference between a broken bone and a fracture

The difference between a broken bone and a fracture

Throughout your life you will most likely break a bone or see your family or friends go through this. There are many ways to break a bone from sporting injuries to childhood mishaps, to an accident or fall.

Many people confuse “broken” and “fractured” when it comes to bone injuries, and in this article, we explore the differences and similarities to help you learn more. By understanding this, you will have better awareness of the healing process, recovery expectations and when to see a medical specialist.

Generally, you should always visit a medical specialist if you think you have fractured or broken a bone. It is important that broken bones are set by doctors who are experience in this area as poorly set bones can have major long-term affects on your ability to function normally.


What’s the difference between a fracture and a break?

A fracture is the medical term for a crack, splinter, chip or break in the bone, whereas a “break” is the laymen’s term for a fracture. Medical professionals may use both words interchangeably, however, they mean the same thing.


The most common causes of fractures

Fractures can occur from many injuries, however, some of the most common include:

  • Falls or accidents (including motor vehicles)
  • Repetitious impact such as sports
  • Underlying conditions such as osteoporosis or a tumour


Bone Fracture signs and symptoms

Broken bones may not always be obvious, that’s why it’s important to understand other signs and symptoms that might indicate you have a fracture. This is particularly true for greenstick fractures near the wrists or ankles that might look like a sprain. Just because you cannot see it doesn’t mean you should disregard the possibility of a bone fracture.

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Sometimes a bone fracture will be more obvious—you might hear the bone break. The snapping noise may be a ligament snapping, which requires urgent medical attention. In addition to noise, some people may experience physical signs of injury such as:

  • Tenderness or pain, swelling and bruising
  • Deformity
  • Unable to put weight on the injured area
  • Bleeding
  • Possible loss sensation below the fracture

This list is not limited to these signs. There may be other visible indications of a fracture and you should always consult your medical professional if you suspect you have sustained a bone fracture.


Treatment of bone fractures

Bone can start to repair itself within a couple of hours of sustaining an injury—therefore it’s so important to get bone fractures attended to as soon as possible.

There are many types of bone fractures and depending on the type of break, the severity and location of the break you may require different treatments.

The seriousness of the break and location may mean that the bone needs to be immobilised and bandaged. Medical specialists may need to set your bone in a cast, or you may require surgery to put screws, pins, rods or plates into the bone to set it in place while it heals.