A broken bone, also known as a complete fracture, is when the bone is completely cracked or broken in two. A fracture, on the other hand, is an incomplete break in the bone.

What is a broken bone?

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picture of a doctor fixing a cast on a patient

A broken bone is when the continuity of the bone is disrupted. This can happen from a direct blow, or from indirect forces that cause the bone to bend or twist. A break can range from a tiny crack to a complete break in several pieces.

A broken bone is a more serious injury than a fracture and is when the bone completely breaks through the skin. This type of injury typically requires surgery to repair.

What is a fracture?

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picture of a x-ray of a bone

A fracture is a break in the continuity of the bone. It can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as a fall, or it can occur over time due to repetitive stress.

There are two main types of fractures: complete and incomplete. In a complete fracture, the bone is broken into two or more pieces. In an incomplete fracture, the bone is cracked but not completely broken.

Fractures can also be classified by their location. A transverse fracture occurs when the break is at a right angle to the bone’s axis. An oblique fracture occurs when the break is diagonal to the bone’s axis. And a comminuted fracture occurs when the bone is shattered into many pieces.

Symptoms of a fracture include pain, swelling, bruising, and deformity of the affected area. The most common treatment for a fracture is immobilization with a cast or splint to allow the bone to heal properly.

Broken bone Vs. Fracture – Key differences

In medical terminology, the terms “broken bone” and “fracture” are often used interchangeably to refer to the same condition. Both terms describe a disruption or crack in the continuity of a bone. However, if we were to distinguish between them, the key differences would be as follows:

Terminology: “Broken bone” is a more colloquial term commonly used in everyday language to describe a bone that has been fractured. “Fracture” is the medical term used by healthcare professionals to denote a break or crack in a bone.

Perception: “Broken bone” often implies a complete break in the bone, suggesting that the bone is in two or more pieces. On the other hand, “fracture” encompasses a broader range of bone injuries, including complete breaks, partial breaks, cracks, and hairline fractures.

Severity: The term “broken bone” may be associated with more severe or obvious fractures, where the bone is visibly misaligned or displaced. “Fracture” is a broader term that encompasses various degrees of severity, ranging from minor cracks that may not be readily visible to more severe fractures that require immediate medical attention.

Medical Context: In a medical setting, healthcare professionals use the term “fracture” to describe any disruption in bone integrity, regardless of its severity or location. It allows for precise communication among healthcare providers and accurate documentation of the injury.

While the terms “broken bone” and “fracture” are often used interchangeably, “broken bone” is a colloquial term suggesting a complete break, while “fracture” is the medical term encompassing a broader range of bone injuries. In medical contexts, healthcare professionals primarily use the term “fracture” to describe any disruption in bone continuity.

Symptoms of broken bones and fractures

Symptoms of broken bones and fractures can vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. Here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:

Pain: Intense and localized pain at the site of the fracture is a typical symptom. The pain may worsen with movement or pressure applied to the affected area.

Swelling: Swelling around the injured area can occur due to tissue damage and inflammation. The area may appear swollen, tender, and may feel warm to the touch.

Deformity: In cases of severe fractures, the affected bone may become visibly deformed or misaligned. There may be an obvious change in the shape or alignment of the injured limb or joint.

Bruising: Bruising or discoloration of the skin around the fracture site can occur due to bleeding and blood vessel damage. The skin may appear discolored, ranging from red or purple to yellow or green.

Limited Range of Motion: Fractures can cause difficulty or inability to move the affected area. Pain and swelling may restrict the normal range of motion, and there may be a feeling of stiffness or immobility.

Tenderness: The injured area may be tender to touch. Gentle pressure or palpation may cause localized pain or discomfort.

Numbness or Tingling: If a fracture is near a nerve, there may be associated symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or a “pins and needles” sensation in the area supplied by the affected nerve.

Difficulty Bearing Weight: Fractures in weight-bearing bones, such as the leg or foot, can make it challenging or impossible to bear weight on the affected limb. Walking or putting pressure on the injured area may be extremely painful.

Crepitus: In some cases, a fractured bone may produce a grating or cracking sensation when the ends of the broken bone rub against each other. This is known as crepitus and can be felt or heard.

It’s important to note that these symptoms are general indications and may vary based on the specific fracture type and location. If you suspect a broken bone or fracture, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How to prevent broken bones and fractures

Preventing broken bones and fractures involves taking various measures to minimize the risk of injuries. Here are some preventive steps:

Maintain Bone Health: Ensure a balanced diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients important for bone strength. Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing and strength-training activities, helps improve bone density.

Prevent Falls: Modify the environment to reduce fall risks. Remove tripping hazards, install handrails and grab bars, use non-slip mats, and ensure adequate lighting. Wear appropriate footwear and take precautions on slippery surfaces.

Use Protective Gear: When engaging in sports or activities with a higher risk of falls or collisions, wear protective gear such as helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, or wrist guards.

Practice Safety at Home: Be cautious during activities that carry a higher risk of fractures, such as climbing ladders, using tools, or participating in high-risk recreational activities. Follow safety guidelines, use proper equipment, and take necessary precautions.

Exercise Caution during Physical Activity: Warm up before exercising, use proper techniques, and gradually increase intensity. Be mindful of your body’s limitations, avoid excessive strain, and listen to any warning signs of pain or discomfort.

Fall Prevention in Older Adults: Older adults should take additional steps to prevent falls. This includes regular eye check-ups, addressing hazards in the home, reviewing medications for side effects, and engaging in exercises to improve balance and strength.

Ensure a Safe Environment for Children: Childproof homes and provide adequate supervision to prevent accidents. Teach children about safety rules, such as wearing protective gear when cycling or playing sports.

Address Osteoporosis and Medical Conditions: If you have medical conditions that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis, follow prescribed treatments and lifestyle recommendations to minimize the risk of fractures.

Avoid Risky Behaviors: Refrain from activities such as driving under the influence of alcohol or engaging in high-risk behaviors that can lead to accidents and fractures.

Regular Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with healthcare professionals to assess bone health, discuss any concerns, and receive appropriate guidance for fracture prevention.

By following these preventive measures, individuals can significantly reduce the likelihood of broken bones and fractures, promoting overall bone health and well-being.


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