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What are Fractures?

A fracture is a broken bone. There are several different types of fractures, all in one of two categories: a closed fracture is when there is no puncture or wound; an open fracture is when the bone breaks through the skin, leading to greater risk of infection. Within these two categories, there are words used to differentiate the kinds of break. Transverse means the broken bone is at right angles; oblique is used to describe curved break; the term comminuted is applied if the bone is broken in several places; a stress fracture refers to a hairline crack; and a buckled fracture, common in children, is one where the broken ends are pushed into each other.

Note: If you think someone has broken a bone in their head, neck, or back, call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to move the patient. If there is any bleeding, staunch it with a clean cloth.


The following are symptoms of a Fracture:

  • Severe pain
  • A bone actually protruding from the skin
  • Bone looking out of place
  • The area is tender
  • Bruising
  • Swelling


Fractures are nearly always caused by trauma — a fall, an accident, a hit of some kind in a sport. Repetitive motion, which causes muscle strain and, often, stress fractures, and osteoporosis can also put you at risk.


“Where the fracture is located is just as important as the severity of the fracture, and those two things combined make a big difference in the treatment required. A back fracture is treated quite differently from a broken arm,” says Frank Corrigan, MD, an orthopedic physician at OINJ. “But whatever the treatment is, the goal is to get the bone put back together the right way and have it protected until it heals.”

“Your physician will take x-rays to determine the extent of your injury,” says Paul Teja, DO, another orthopedic physician at OINJ. “In a minimal case, only immobilization, in the form of a cast or a brace, is necessary. If this is required, there will likely be some training involved, teaching you how to maneuver with crutches or work with your other hand, for example, based on where the fracture is. If the bone is broken in several places, surgery may be required, and screws pins, or rods may be used to hold it together.”

“After the bone has reknit, you will need physical therapy to retrain the muscles that have become weak from disuse. You’ll want to do those exercises diligently to give yourself the best chance of reclaiming strength and flexibility,” advises Dr. Teja.