A broken bone or fracture is an injury in which the continuity of a bone is broken into two or more fragments. Most fractures are sustained when a sudden, high impact force is applied to the body, such as a fall, contact sport or motor vehicle accident. Due to the speed and force of the impact, the bone is unable to cope with such duress, causing the bone to break.
Other causes of fracture include repetitive stress or overuse, commonly seen in the lower leg of a person who engages in long distance running. Tiny microfractures, known as shin splints, may be seen along the length of the tibia (shin bone) due to repeated impact and inadequate rest. Disorders which cause bones to weaken and become brittle, such as Osteoporosis, also increase the risk of fractures, even with less impact compared to healthy bones.
Common signs of a fracture include:
Significant pain and immediate swelling in the area
Hearing or feeling a crack or snap
An inability to bear weight on the injured limb
Deformity and bruising
Suffering trauma or high impact directly to an area, such as falling onto an outstretched hand
Tenderness and pain along the length of bones during and after repetitive activities, such as long distance running. Often the pain does not settle with a short period of rest.
An X-Ray is often used to determine whether a bone has been fractured and therefore assist in the course of treatment needed. In severe injuries, an MRI, CT Scan or Ultrasound may also be required to examine for soft tissue injuries, such as ligament tears which often occur at the time of injury but are frequently missed during early stage assessment.
Treatment usually involves a period of immobilisation in either a cast or camboot which your Physiotherapist can apply. This is likely to be 6 – 8 weeks depending on the severity of the fracture. Once the immobilisation period has finished and the cast (or camboot) has been removed regular Physiotherapy sessions can assist to manage pain and swelling, exercise the affected area, strengthen and improve coordination and proprioception (refer to previous blog) and assist in helping you safely return to sport or work.