Could It Be A Broken Bone?

A broken bone is a serious concern, but sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether a bone is actually broken. Knowing how to determine whether a bone is broken, and knowing whether a person is more at risk for a break, can help patients quickly receive the medical attention they need.

People at Risk for Breaks

  • Fractures are common in people under 20. Children often break their falls with their arms, which can lead to arm fractures.
  • Adults over the age of 65 are also more susceptible. This is especially true of women , who often experience a decrease in calcium and thus a decrease in bone density after they reach middle age.
  • People who routinely engage in sports, or conversely, don’t exercise enough and haven’t built up bone strength, are also at a greater risk for a break. Diseases that deteriorate bone also put some people at risk.

Types of Breaks

  • Bone breaks range from mild to severe. Stress fractures, for example, are hairline cracks. Compression fractures are when a bone collapses or crumbles. Greenstick fractures are breaks that travel only part of the way through the bone.
  • More severe breaks include complete fractures, where the bone is broken all the way through, and open or compound fractures, where the bone punctures the skin. Comminuted fractures are when the bone is broken in more than one place.


The most obvious symptom of a break occurs with open fractures, where the broken bone punctures the skin. Less obvious symptoms can include pain, tingling or numbness, swelling, bruising or a bump or deformity. Limited movement is another way to determine if a bone is broken.

First Aid and Medical Attention

  • In the case of a suspected bone break, remain calm and stay as still as possible. People with fractures to the hip, spine, neck or head should be moved as little as possible.
  • For open fractures, rinse the wound of debris and apply gentle pressure to slow bleeding. Ice can be applied to fractures to reduce swelling. Keep the person warm in order to stave off shock. It’s best to keep people as flat as possible, but the legs can be slightly elevated in another effort to reduce shock.

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