Identifying Signs of a Broken Bone or Fracture

Breaks & Fractures

May 19, 2021


Sometimes it can be unclear whether your injury is severe or not; that’s why Complete Care created this guide to identifying the signs of a broken bone or fracture. But before we even begin, it’s important to note that fractures and bone breaks are not actually two different things: a fractured bone is a broken bone

A fracture alludes to any loss of continuity of the bone, whether it’s a hairline crack or a fully shattered bone. Again, both terms are used interchangeably, but your doctor might be more likely to refer to your injury as a fracture. 

It may seem unusual, but oftentimes, broken bones and fractures can go unnoticed or even be written off as lesser injuries. Ever been told to “walk it off?” Well, these injuries usually cannot be “walked off.” If you experience any of the signs of a broken bone discussed below, seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

Here at Complete Care, our emergency facilities cater to broken bones and fractures without the long wait times of a traditional hospital, so you can be treated within minutes, not hours.

How can you tell if a bone is fractured or sprained? 

Though there is no difference between a fracture and a break, there is a difference between a fracture and a sprain. A sprain is an injury, usually a tear, to the ligaments that attach the bones together. Regardless, both injuries deserve medical attention. 

Common signs of a sprain include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising, swelling, and tenderness around the injured area
  • Additional pain when pressure is applied 

The most common signs of a broken bone/fracture are:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness 
  • Swelling
  • Deformity 
  • Inability to move 
  • Protruding bone 

Can you fracture a bone and not know it? Actually, yes. In some cases, fractures can be minor accidents that go unnoticed. Here are common ways to tell if you have fractured a bone upon injury: 

  • The area looks deformed: This is the best indication that a fracture has occurred. If a limb bends in a way it is not supposed to, the bone may be out of alignment. 
  • You hear a snapping sound
  • There is bruising, tenderness, or swelling around the area
  • You may feel pain if you put weight on or apply pressure to an area

Types of fractures

The severity of a fracture typically depends on the amount of force applied to cause the break in the bone. These fractures can range from cracks in the bone to the bone shattering into pieces. Your doctor will decide your fracture treatment based on the type of fracture you’ve endured:

  • Stable fracture: The broken ends of the bone align and are only slightly out of place. This type of fracture doesn’t require any type of realignment but can take up to 6 weeks to heal completely.
  • Open, compound fracture: The skin may be ruptured by an impact that breaks the skin at the time of the fracture or by being pierced by the bone. This does not always mean the bone will be visible in the wound. Because this type of fracture is at risk of becoming infected, immediate treatment is necessary. You’ll likely be prescribed antibiotics to fight off infection.
  • Transverse fracture: The break goes in a straight line across the bone. A horizontal fracture line is common in this type of fracture. Transverse fractures can typically be healed with conservative care (bed rest, light walking, etc.) Anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to help with swelling.
  • Oblique fracture: An angled pattern or diagonal line is common in this type of fracture. Similar treatment to the transverse fracture can be done with medication and rest. However, in more severe cases, your doctor may need to reset the bone
  • Comminuted fracture: In this kind of fracture, the bone shatters into at least three pieces. This type of fracture will most likely require surgery.

Frequently broken bones

If you’re looks for signs of a broken bone for a particular bone, please also see our guides to  the most common broken bones below: 

Broken Bone? Head to a Complete Care Emergency Room ASAP!

Suffering from a broken bone or fracture? Our Complete Care emergency rooms are fully equipped to handle any broken bone treatment or fracture treatment in a timely manner. We have ER locations in both Texas and Colorado. Whether you have an emergency or just a simple health question, we will take complete care of you.

More Helpful Articles by Complete Care: