Fracture or Break?

Which is Worse, a Fracture or a Break

fracture bone
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A fracture is a broken bone. A broken bone is a fracture.

While many people believe that a fracture is a "hairline break," or a certain type of broken bone, this is not true. A fracture and a broken bone are the same thing!  To your physician, these words can be used interchangeably.  While there are many types of fractures, or broken bones, there are other ways to describe fractures that give more specific meaning to the problem.

Both of these words mean that the normal bone structure has been disrupted. This does not imply a certain type of treatment, but in general, bones heal best when immobilized. Therefore treatment of a broken bone may require some type of intervention.

Broken bones occur for one of three reasons:

  • Too Much Energy: This means that the amount of energy being absorbed by the bone exceeds the strength of the bone.  Common reasons for these types of fractures include falls, automobile accidents, and sports injuries.
  • To Much Repetitive Stress: These injuries, also called stress fractures occur not as the result of a single about of force applied to the bone, but rather repeated stress to the bone that causes it to eventually fail.  Much like you can bend a paperclip back and forth a few times, eventually it will snap, the same can happen with bone.  Stress fractures are often see in people like long-distance runners and military recruits.
  • Pathologic Fractures: Some fractures occur not because of to much energy to too much stress, but because the bone has been weakened.  The most common pathology that weakens bone is osteoporosis or bone thinning.  Other causes of pathologic fractures include tumors, infections, and other bone disorders.

    Treatment of Broken Bones

    Once a fracture has been identified, the proper treatment must be undertaken.  Proper treatment depends on a number of factors including the type of fracture, the location of the injury, and the patient's needs. 

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