Make a wish! That’s what people say when they tug on either side of a “wish bone.” Each person holds an end of the V-shaped bone then pulls until the force upon it makes it break. Bones are only so strong and give only so far before they crack or break under pressure. Fractures are actually quite common because of the forces exerted on our bodies every day. From sports to accidents to falls, a broken bone can happen to just about anyone, although kids and the elderly are most at risk, because children tend to be more active and bones become more brittle as we age.

How Broken Is It?

One might think that a broken bone is a broken bone, however, there are actually different levels of damage that can occur. Severity depends on the force placed upon the bone to make it break. If the force exceeds the bone’s breaking point just slightly, then a crack, or partial fracture, may result; extreme force can completely break the bone and even shatter it. The most common types of fractures are as follows:

Displaced (Comminuted): The bone snaps in multiple places and the ends do not line up straight.

Non-Displaced (Stable): Partial or complete break where the bones are slightly out of place and still maintain proper alignment.

Open: This occurs when the bone actually breaks through the skin. It may or may not be visible within the wound.

Closed: The broken bone does not puncture the skin.

Transverse: Characterized by horizontal fracture lines.

Oblique: The fracture has an angled pattern.

No matter the type, most fractures are extremely painful and can limit or stop your mobility. You may also notice swelling, tenderness, and bruising around the affected area, and bones may appear out of place or visibly deformed.

What Now?

The type of broken bone, its location, and the level of damage to its surrounding tissues determines the severity of the condition. Prompt treatment is vital to fending off future complications, such as infection, nerve and blood vessel damage, and deformity when bones do not heal correctly. Treatment consists of putting the pieces back together and in proper position. This may have to be done surgically, with or without pins and screws, or with traction which uses a gentle, steady pulling action. Once aligned, fractures must be immobilized with a cast to allow the bones to grow back together in the correct position. For less severe cases, a functional cast or brace may be used which allows controlled movement. Recovery depends on health and age, and the severity of the fracture. The time it takes to heal can range from a few weeks to several months. Pain usually stops long before healing is complete, so it is imperative that you follow instructions and not push yourself too soon. Once your cast is removed, physical therapy exercises will help you regain strength, range-of-motion, flexibility, and function.

Got Milk?

Although you can’t always prevent a broken bone from occurring, a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D will promote bone strength, and weight-bearing exercise will help keep your bones strong, making you less vulnerable to fractures.

For more information, or if you need treatment, contact Brandon Percival, DPM, Julie Percival, DPM, and William Harris IV, DPM, at Carolina Podiatry, Inc. You can reach us in Lancaster, SC by dialing (803) 285-1411, or in Indian Land, SC at (803) 548-FEET.