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Understanding Bone Fractures

What is a Fracture?

Fractures, also known as bone fractures, is the medical term for a broken bone.

This guide will cover the many types of bone fractures that may occur. How to understand the bone fracture healing process. Its signs and symptoms. And also how to treat it safely and effectively.

Types of Fractures | Bone Fracture Healing| Symptoms and Treatment| FAQ’s

Types of Bone Fractures

There are many types of fractures, but the most common are simple fractures and compound fractures.

Simple Fracture: Also called a closed fracture. This is when there is no open wound on the skin, the bone has not pierced it. Simple fractures include:

  • Greenstick fracture: This is when the bone is bent and has not completely fractured.
  • Transverse fracture: This is when the break is across the bone at a right angle.
  • Avulsed fracture: This is when there is a separation of a small fragment of bone near the attachment at the ligament or tendon.
  • Oblique Fracture: This is when the fracture is at an angle and the bones stay at an alignment.
  • Oblique Displaced Fracture: This is when the fracture is at an angle, but the bone do not stay at an alignment.
  • Comminuted Fracture: This is when the bone has fragmented into multiple pieces.
  • Segmental Fracture: This is when a fracture occurs in two parts of the same bone.
  • Spiral Fracture: This is when a bone fracture occurs at a torque or twist. This type of fracture is common during activity where one extremity is planted.

Compound Fracture: Also called an open fracture. This is when the bone breaks through the surface of the skin, but does not necessarily mean it will stay there. Some compound fractures may move back into the wound so it is no longer visible.(1)

Bones Fractures - Types

A significant number of bone fractures occur due to high force impact or stress. However, some fractures may be caused by medical conditions that weaken the bones, such as osteoporosis or bone cancer. When you fracture a bone due to a medical condition, it is referred to as a pathological fracture(2)

You may have heard the term Dowager’s Hump (Kyphosis), which is quite common in people who have osteoporosis in the spine. This refers to the forward curvature of the spine that results in a stoop or hump and can cause vertebral fractures. This fracture is commonly called a wedge fracture. This is when the front of the vertebra collapses, creating the curved spine.

The interesting thing about this type of fracture is that it is often painless. Yes, you can fracture your vertebrae and not even know!

How does it happen?

Just like any other part of your body, when you begin to lose bone density in your spine, the bone becomes porous. These porous or weak bones are more likely to fracture. The most common movement that results in this spontaneous fracture is when someone bends over or leans to the side.

Below is the visual effect of osteoporosis when it comes to vertebrae fractures. You will notice the loss of bone density with age and the slight curve of the spine.

Bone Fractures - Curved Spine with Age

If you or someone you know has visible effects, get tested. A DEXA scan will determine if the culprit is bone loss.

Bone Fracture Healing Process

There are many different types of fractures, but the good news is, they all follow the same bone fracture healing process.

Whether it’s a fracture from a surgical procedure or an injury – your healing will be the exact same. (3)

There are three stages:

  1. Inflammation: This occurs immediately after the bone is fractured and can last for several days. “When the bone is fractured there is bleeding into the area, leading to inflammation and clotting of blood at the fracture site.”
  2. Bone Production: This next step occurs when the blood that is clotted from the inflammation is then replaced with fibrous tissue and cartilage. Once that is complete, it then is replaced with hard bone.
  3. Bone Remodeling: The final step of bone healing can go on for several months. In this remodeling stage the bone, “continues to form and become compact, returning to its original shape.” Blood circulation will also start to improve in this area again.

Watch a brief video on the bone healing process below:

It is advised that you be monitored by an approved healthcare provider during the bone healing process. They will guide you and be able to tell you when you have reached the point during your recovery where you can start to incorporate weight-bearing exercises into your regimen. Weight-bearing exercises will continue to help the bone heal and remodel.

To learn more about the time it takes for a bone fracture to heal, go here. But generally, the older the person is, the longer it takes to heal. Children for instance, heal much quicker than adults.

The longer it takes to recover, the higher the risk of complications such as deep vein thrombosis or pneumonia. To avoid such complications, there are some things you can do to speed up the bone healing process:

Increase Blood Flow: Increasing blood circulation in your body, particularly near the fracture you have, can help promote cell growth and speed up the healing process. Discuss exercises and movements with your healthcare provider that will increase blood flow, without hindering the bone healing process.

Increase Protein Intake: Your bones are made up of half protein, by volume. That’s why it’s important to get adequate protein intake from either your diet or supplements. Protein helps to make up the scaffolding of your bones, which is what crucial mineral likes calcium attaches itself to.

Increase Mineral Intake: Most people are deficient in not just one, but many minerals. In addition to calcium, trace minerals like silica, manganese and vanadium are found in your bones. Getting enough of these trace minerals is not always easy with the typical Standard American Diet. So try supplementing with a clinically supported, multi-nutrient bone building supplement, which also promotes bone healing. This will ensure that your bones are getting the adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals needed in case of any shortfall from your diet.

Bone Fracture Symptoms & Treatment

According to The National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis causes 1.5 million fractures per year in the U.S.(4)

Common areas of bone fractures are the hip, wrist and spine – but that doesn’t mean fractures can’t happen in other areas.

If you think you might have a bone fracture, here are the following common signs and symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Loss of Function
  • Height loss
  • Curved spine
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Tenderness
  • Limping

Common Bone Fracture FAQ’s

What causes broken bones?

The large number of bone fractures occur due to high force impact or stress: car accident, falls from heights, playing on unsafe surfaces etc. However, some fractures may be caused by medical conditions that weaken the bones, such as osteoporosis or bone cancer.

How long does it take for a broken bone to heal?

This varies from individual to individual. But generally, bone fractures heal within 6-8 weeks. There are exceptions though. Age, medication conditions, location of the fracture and nutritional status all play an important role.

How is the fracture of the bone healed?

The fracture bone healing process has three stages. Inflammation, bone production and bone remodeling. For explanation of the entire healing process jump to section “Bone Fracture Healing

What bone fracture healing vitamins do I need?

Diet and supplementation are essential to the bone healing process. Make sure your diet includes dark leafy greens, veggies, fruit and nuts as well as cold-water fatty fish like salmon. Salmon has one of the most potent antioxidants on the planet called astaxanthin and combats inflammation in the body. What your body doesn’t need are highly processed and sugary foods. Cut them out as much as possible.

What is the difference between broken bones and fractures?

Nothing. A ‘fracture’ or ‘bone fracture’ is the common medical term. While a ‘break’ or ‘broken bone’ is commonly used by lay (non-professional) people.

Do you have questions about bone fractures that weren’t covered here? Comment below!

Sources:
  1. http://www.webmd.boots.com/a-to-z-guides/bone-fractures-types-symptoms-prevention
  2. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173312.php
  3. http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/bone_healing.htm
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45502/

Author: Monica Straith, BS

Monica is the PR and Outreach Manager and Fitness Lead at AlgaeCal. She’s an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist, and has a B.S. and B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she played varsity soccer for four years. Monica pulls from her experience in athletics and health to contribute to AlgaeCal and has also been featured on myfitnesspal blog, Prevention, and Huffington Post.