What are fractures?
A fracture is a broken bone. Fractures can range in severity from a crack (known as a hairline or greenstick fracture), to a complete break and separation of a bone that may protrude through your skin (known as an open or compound fracture).
Fractures can occur in any bone in the body, but the most common fractures are of bones in the extremities and of the ribs. Fractures are most common in young adults who are adventurous by nature, and in the older population as bones become more fragile.
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A closed fracture is one in which the bones do not break the skin, while in an open (also known as compound) fracture, one or more bone fragments protrudes through the skin. Open fractures are more difficult to treat and have a greater risk of infection. Stress fractures are tiny cracks that develop in bone due to repeated force, such as overuse injuries.
Some fractures are mild and require little treatment other than pain relievers, icing, and time to heal. Other fractures, however, can be very serious and can put important nearby tissue, such as the spinal cord, large vessels, or the brain, at risk.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms associated with a fracture including loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, a bone that has broken through the skin, or any suspected fracture of the neck, back, or skull.
Seek prompt medical care if you have a fracture, such as a broken arm or hand, without the serious symptoms above.