Types of fractures: The many ways bones can break

Types of fractures: The many ways bones can break

You probably don't think about it until you or someone close to you breaks a bone. But there are many kinds of bone fractures, and the type you have will make a big difference in how fast you're able to get back to your normal life.

A fracture usually falls under one of four main categories:           

  • Displaced: This means a bone has broken in such a way that the ends can’t be lined up straight. 
  • Non-displaced: In this case the bone is broken but is still aligned properly.
  • Open: This means the bone has broken through the skin. This is potentially serious because of the risk of infection, both in the wound and in the bone itself. 
  • Closed: In this case the bone has not broken through the skin.

Obviously, non-displaced and closed fractures will be simpler to treat and will usually have a shorter recovery time than open or displaced fractures. 

There are several other terms you may hear doctors use when referring to broken bones:

  • Transverse fracture: In this case the break is perpendicular to the long part of the bone.
  • Oblique fracture: This type of break occurs at an angle.
  • Comminuted fracture: These occur when the bone breaks into three or more pieces. These can be more complicated to treat.
  • Stress fracture: These are tiny, hairline fractures that sometimes occur in athletes who train hard.
  • Pathologic fracture: These breaks occur because the bone is weak, often due to osteoporosis. Even simple acts like lifting something heavy or bending over can sometimes cause broken bones in people with osteoporosis.

These types of breaks occur in children:

  • Greenstick fracture: This is an incomplete fracture, where the bone is bent but not broken all the way through.
  • Buckled fracture: This is an impacted fracture, in which the bone ends are forced into each other.

Your treatment will vary, depending on how complicated the break is. With a closed, non-displaced fracture, you may be sent home quickly with a plaster or fiberglass cast. With a more complex break, you may need surgery. 

If you need treatment for a broken bone, schedule an appointment with at Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists to talk about which options may be right for you.

Arizona Bone and Joint Specialists is located in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, with convenient on-site services including physical therapy and imaging. For more information, make an appointment by calling the Scottsdale office at 602-493-9361 or the Phoenix office at 602-863-2040

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.