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Broken Bones

What Is a Broken Bone?

A broken bone, also called a fracture (say: FRAK-shur), is when a break goes through part or all of a bone.

How Do Broken Bones Happen?

Most broken bones in kids happen from a fall. Kids also can break a bone in an accident or while playing sports.

What Are the Kinds of Broken Bones?

Types of bone fractures include:

  • A greenstick fracture: a break on one side of the bone only
  • A buckle or torus fracture: an outward bend on one side of the bone without breaking the other side
  • An avulsion fracture: when a tendon or ligament pulls off of a tiny piece of bone
  • A growth plate fracture: a break in the area of a child or teen's growing bone
  • A stress fracture: a tiny crack in the bone
  • A comminuted fracture: a bone breaks into more than two pieces
  • A compression fracture: a collapsing of the bone

What Are the Signs of a Broken Bone?

It always hurts to break a bone. There also might be swelling and bruising. The injured area may be hard to move and use.

Sometimes the body part looks crooked or different than it did before the injury.

What Do Doctors Do?

Doctors order X-rays if they think a bone is broken.

How Are Broken Bones Treated?

Most broken bones are treated with a cast, splint, or brace. This keeps the broken bone from moving while it heals. Even broken bones that don't line up (called displaced) often will heal straight over time.

Sometimes the displaced bones need to be put back in place before the cast, splint, or brace is put on. This is done through a procedure called a reduction. This is also called "setting the bone."

How Do Bones Heal?

In the first few days after a fracture, the body forms a blood clot around the broken bone to protect it and deliver the cells needed for healing.

Then, an area of healing tissue forms around the broken bone. This is called a callus (say: KAL-uss). It joins the broken bones together. It's soft at first, then gets harder and stronger over the following weeks.

New bone forms in the weeks to months after a break, but full healing can take longer.

How Can I Help My Bone Heal?

To help your bone heal well:

  • eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D
  • take care of the cast or splint
  • rest and/or do any exercises that your doctor recommended

With the right treatment, a broken bone usually heals well. After a few months, you will be back to doing all the things you did before the injury.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date Reviewed: Jan 1, 2023

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