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Broken Bones vs. Simple Fracture

Broken bones, also known as fractures, are common. On average, a person will have two fractures in their lifetime, according to

Fractures occur when a physical force exerted on a bone is stronger than the bone itself. Fractures are categorized as displaced, non-displaced, open, and closed. If a bone does not actually break, only bend, it is referred to as a greenstick fracture (common among children). A displaced fracture is when the bone snaps into two or more parts and is moved in a way that the ends are no longer lined up straight. A communicated fracture is the term used for when the bone is broken into many pieces. A non-displaced fracture is when the broken bone does not move and maintains proper alignment. An open fracture is when a broken bone breaks through the skin, even if it recedes back into the wound and is not visible. A closed fracture is when the bone breaks, but there are no open wounds or punctures through the skin. The difference between an opened and closed fracture is important when determining the risk of a deep bone infection with an open fracture. If a broken bone is closed and non-displaced, or a greenstick fracture, it is often referred to as a simple fracture.

The most common fractures occur in the arm, wrist, hip, ankle or collarbone. Common symptoms of a broken bone are swelling or bruising around the bone, deformity of an arm or leg, pain in the injured area that gets worse when moved or applied pressure, or loss of function in the injured area. In the event of a fracture, swelling may occur quickly and an x-ray and immobilization are recommended to minimize discomfort and long term issues. Treatment for fractures are referred to and often abbreviated as RICE, which refers to rest, ice, compression (either provided by splint or by ace wrap), and elevation. These treatments will speed healing and decrease pain. Ibuprofen is also recommended to decrease inflammation and relieve discomfort. Other pain relievers may be prescribed by a healthcare professional.

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