5 Fracture Symptoms You Must Know

Uncomplicated fractures are rarely life-threatening, but healing time and possible complications often depend on how quickly the diagnosis and first aid are given.

Dr. Paul

Chief of Traumatology, Emergency Unit

Overview of fractures?

A fracture is a break in the integrity of a bone. Fractures most often occur in wrists, ankles, hips, and lower legs. However, more complex and dangerous fractures do occur. If there is skin damage in the area of the fracture and the bone is visible, this is an open fracture. In closed fractures, the skin is not disturbed, which makes diagnosis much more difficult. If you mistake a fracture for dislocation and try to set it right on your own, you can cause painful shock and aggravate the injury.

How do I know if it's a fracture?

The following symptoms indicate that a person has a fracture rather than a sprain or contusion, but the final diagnosis is made with X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans:

  • Severe pain on exertion and any movement at the site of the injury
  • Inability to do normal activities (e.g. move the arm or leg) or, conversely, abnormal mobility
  • Change of habitual shape and position of the limb
  • Swelling and/or bruising in the place of probable fracture
  • Crepitations — the crunching of bone in the place of possible fracture on palpation

What should I do to help before going to the doctor?

It is important to secure the possible fracture to avoid the displacement of fragments and damage to nerves and muscles. This can be done by applying splints made of solid objects (planks, ski sticks, etc.). When you break a bone, it is important to secure the two joints that are above and below the fracture.

Cool the fracture area with an ice pack or frozen food that is wrapped in a protective towel or cloth. Do not apply ice directly to the skin as this can cause other issues. To avoid pain shock, you can give the individual an analgesic or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) as long as he or she does not have any contraindications. If you suspect a serious fracture, seek immediate medical help. This may include calling an ambulance if necessary.

Minor fractures usually heal in 4 to 8 weeks, while more serious fractures take longer to heal and may even require surgery.

What should you not do?

  • Carrying or helping the victim to stand up or sit up, especially if the skull, spine, ribs, or legs are suspected to be broken
  • Trying to treat the fracture (other than the steps listed above)
  • Giving water or food

17 December 2021

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