Your body has the amazing ability to heal itself given enough time. Cuts and wounds in your skin fuse back into a smooth covering, burns scar over, viruses and bacteria meet their match in powerful antibodies, and broken bones knit together so your skeleton is as strong as it was before your injury.
What many people don’t realize about bone fractures is that there are different types, and each one requires a different approach to the healing process. It’s important to get the right treatment promptly so you heal correctly.
Our large team of orthopedic and sports medicine specialists at The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre in The Woodlands, Texas, understands the complexities of various bone fractures, and we diagnose and treat them with the most advanced technology available. Here’s what you need to know about broken bones.
If bones heal on their own, why do I need treatment?
While it’s true that bones have the natural ability to heal themselves, they don’t always do so successfully without a little assistance. Depending on the type of fracture you’ve sustained, your bones might need help getting back into alignment, remaining stable during the healing process, or fighting off infection.
Another reason to seek prompt treatment for fractures is to address the cause of the break. For instance, if you have a fracture but can’t name an event that caused the injury, there may be an underlying condition, such as osteoporosis, which weakens your bones, or repetitive stress, which slowly breaks your bones.
What type of bone fracture do I have?
Fractures can happen as a result of an injury, an illness, or even a growth and development issue. Whatever the cause, it’s the nature of the break that determines the type of fracture.
If you’re an avid runner, you may develop stress fractures in your feet, shins, hips, or even your back. The constant pounding causes thin hairline cracks in these bones.
Although we don’t typically put a cast on a stress fracture, you should stay off of it, ice it, elevate, and take steps to avoid repeat injury by cross-training, incorporating low-impact activities, and making sure your technique and footwear are appropriate.
Growth plate fractures
As children grow, the ends of their bones, called growth plates, are very soft and fragile. A simple fall can easily injure this vulnerable part of the limb and affect how the bone continues to grow. If left untreated, it can grow crooked or shorter than the corresponding bone.
If you’ve ever tried to break a tree branch that was still green and fresh, you know why this type of break is called a greenstick fracture. The bone, just like the branch, doesn’t break completely through, only partially. We typically realign the bone and cast it or splint it to make sure it stays still while it heals.
Stable (simple) fracture
When you break your bone, but the ends remain in their original position and don’t need to be realigned, we call this a simple or a stable fracture.
Sometimes, a broken bone is severe enough to leave the two haves tilted at angle. In this case, we need to manipulate the bones and get them back in proper alignment before we can immobilize them. This may require surgery.
The worst of all fractures, a compound fracture is so extreme that it breaks through the skin. Not only is this type of fracture extremely painful, but it also leaves you vulnerable to infection.
Regardless of the type of fracture, it’s best to have our team evaluate it and determine the best treatment plan to help you avoid ongoing problems.
How we treat fractures
The type of treatment we recommend depends on the severity of your fracture and where it’s located. Some of the treatments we use include:
If your fracture is in your arm or leg, we typically cast it, which involves creating a hard splint made of fiberglass or plaster to keep the bone immobilized while it heals.
The danger of ignoring your fracture
If you choose to wait or not seek treatment for your fracture or you get the wrong treatment for your type of fracture, you face potential complications, such as:
- Damage to your nerves, muscles, or ligaments
- Bone deformity
- Mobility issues
- Joint stiffness and inflammation
Another serious complication of improperly treated fractures is compartment syndrome, which occurs when pressure builds up in the muscles surrounding your fracture. In addition to intense pain, this can lead to decreased blood flow and permanent muscle damage if left untreated.
If you have pain and swelling after an accident and you suspect you’ve broken a bone, contact us right away by phone or online to get an expert evaluation and the right fracture treatment.