Five Myths About Broken Bones and Fractures
I have a fracture and I’m not happy about it. I’m making the best of it, but will not be content until it’s healed and I’m back to being 100% mobile. I always consider a health challenge to be learning experience. This fracture is no exception. This incident forced me to learn a thing or two about fractures that I thought might be helpful to share. I will be sharing a series of articles on fractures, sprains and strains. This post covers several myths that exist about broken bones. To learn what I did to get back on my foot in less than three weeks, read From a Broken Foot to Dancing in Heels.
The bottom line is that if you experience trauma that results in pain, swelling, bruising (either immediately or after time passes) or which impedes your ability to move or use a limb the way you usually do, please see your doctor and get an X-ray. If you have access to an orthopedic hospital with a walk-in clinic, go there. Walk-in orthopedic clinics are wonderful because they will take an X-ray, diagnose and treat you far more quickly than an emergency room will. When I broke my ankle 25 years ago, I went to an emergency room. It was the weekend, so the staff X-rayed my ankle, told me it was broken, and sent me home with pain killers and a splint until I could get in to see an orthopedic doctor. By the time I saw the doctor on Monday, I was in agony and the ankle had swollen beyond recognition. It wasn’t pretty. When I broke my foot this week, I went to an orthopedic clinic . I checked in and was X-rayed, diagnosed and treated in less than 90 minutes. Orthopedic immediate care clinics are springing up across the US. I highly recommend making them your first stop for any orthopedic injury.
Following are five myths about fractures I think it’s time to bust:
Myth #1: A fracture is a milder injury than a broken bone
Myth #2: If I still have full range of motion, it can’t be a fracture
False. The fact the bone is broken does not always mean the muscles and tendons cannot move the joint the way it is supposed to. Whether or not the limb has full range of motion is dependent on whether or not the bone(s) on either side of the break are in alignment. This is especially true if the fracture did not break the bone into two distinct pieces.
Myth #3: Fractures always bruise
False. Although fractures do typically bruise, it may take 12-48 hours before the bruising appears. If a traumatic injury produces pain and swelling, do not assume it is not broken simply because there is no bruising. It took over 24 hours for bruising to appear after I broke my foot. I was trained that fractures always produce bruising. This was wrong.
Myth #4: Fractures are so painful I will immediately know if I break a bone
False. Ligament sprains and muscle strains are also very painful, sometimes more painful than fractures. Additionally, every person has a different pain tolerance. People with a high pain tolerance may continue using the limb with a broken bone in spite of the pain. Case in point: When I broke my foot, I walked around for over 24 hours before deciding I needed to get it X-rayed. Yes, it hurt, and yes, I knew better. My common sense lost out to my stubborn refusal to accept I had a broken bone. (There’s another lesson there somewhere.)
Myth #5: It’s easy to tell a bone is broken because the person will have “pin point” pain over the break
False. It is very difficult to break a bone without also spraining ligaments and straining muscles. Because of that, the pain may surround the break and extend far beyond the location of the fracture. The pain will be most intense directly over the break, but the pain may be so intense it is difficult to tell exactly what hurts and where the pain originates.
Again … if you experience trauma that causes ongoing pain, swelling and bruising, please have the injury checked by a medical professional.
Have you ever broken a bone and not realized it? Please share your story!
Photograph courtesy of Richard Yuan Photography.
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