Mid Atlantic Orthopedic Associates Blog

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The Difference between a Break and Fracture

You may have heard people talk about bone fractures and broken bones. The terms are actually interchangeable and both refer to a bone that has been shattered, often by excessive force. Your doctor may be more likely to use the term fracture. To be frank, the term fracture is more “professional” sounding. To say break would still be correct but more colloquial.

A fracture is defined as any loss of continuity of the bone. Anytime your bone loses integrity, whether it's the smallest hairline crack barely recognizable on an x-ray, or the shattering of bone into multiple pieces, it is considered a fracture. Whether it be after a small fall or a severe car accident, a fractured bone can be painful.

Depending on the severity of the trauma, a fracture could be life threatening. If left untreated, it could cause nerve damage, organ damage, muscle damage or even pierce through your skin causing more pain and a potentially life threatening infection. Fractures can even occur without trauma. Years of wear on bones and joints can cause a significant fracture.

A fracture will be painful. The pain can be heightened if you move the bone that is in pain or if you apply pressure or weight to it. Swelling, numbness, bleeding, bruising and a bone poking through skin are all signs that your fracture is significant and needs to be immediately cared for.

Your doctor will be able to properly diagnose the problem via an x-ray scan of the area in question. Sometimes a CT scan or an MRI would be used in other scenarios that require a more detailed look at the body. After your doctor properly assesses the damage done, then they can draw up a plan for healing your fracture

Often you’ll be required to wear a cast, a sling, a stint or perhaps a combination of various methods to keep the fracture and the immediately surrounding area immobile so that you are able to regenerate soft tissue that heals the area. In more severe cases, surgery will be recommended in which the place pins, rods or screws within the bone to heal the breakage. Only a doctor can properly diagnose the issue at hand. Contact Mid Atlantic Orthopedics if you believe you have broken a bone.

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