Most fractures are the result of trauma or injury. The mechanism, or way the injury happens, can typically be classified as either high-energy or low-energy. Examples of high-energy mechanism include automobile accidents, or falls from tall heights. An example of a low energy mechanism would be a simple ground level fall. The severity of the fracture often corresponds with the energy associated with the trauma. Higher energy typically equates to more severe fractures.
What is the difference between a fracture and a break?
Many people assume a fracture is minor and a break is more serious. This is a very common misconception about broken bones. Fracture and break mean the same thing to an orthopedic surgeons and the terms don’t offer any explanation of how severe a fracture may be.
How long until my fracture heals?
The healing time for most fractures in adults is six to eight weeks. However, there are many factors that may allow healing earlier or cause it to take longer. Children have greater healing potential due to their growing skeletons and will often heal fractures sooner than adults. Older adults with medical comorbidities make take longer to heal than the typical six to eight weeks. Severity of fracture is also a component of healing. More severe fractures may take longer to heal depending on their alignment and the number of fracture fragments.
What limitations will I have?
Depending on the location and severity of the fracture a period of immobilization may be necessary. A splint is typically used immediately following the injury to allow for swelling. Conversation to a cast, brace, or boot may be necessary following the splint. In addition to immobilizing the joints surrounding the fracture, a period of limiting weightbearing or lifting may be necessary to prevent the fracture from falling out of alignment until it can heal.
Will I need physical therapy?
Most people require some physical therapy following healing of their fracture to recondition their muscles and joints. A period of immobilization can cause muscle atrophy and joint stiffness. Physical therapy is important to help regain mobility, increase strength, and control swelling often associated with fractures.
Will my healed bone be as strong as before?
In most cases, once a fracture has healed it is as strong as it was before. Many people commonly return to high level activities including heavy weightlifting, contact sports, running and jogging following fractures. Physical therapy and a gradual return to activities is typically recommended following fracture healing.