Bone fracture – symptoms

Bone fracture - symptoms

Every bone in our body can theoretically break. However, some bones in our body are much more prone to fracture than others, especially from falls. To use a somewhat technical term, there are “breakpoints” in the body that are particularly susceptible to fractures. The femoral neck is the best-known and most important for everyday life. But a broken arm is also relatively common. Below, you can find out which bone fractures are most common and how to recognize a fracture.

Bone fracture: symptoms and signs

The bone itself has few nerve endings that transmit pain. However, the periosteum surrounding the bone is extremely sensitive to injuries and even pressure from the outside – as anyone who has already received a kick or bump in front of the relatively unprotected shin bones knows.

The following symptoms can occur with a broken bone:

  • Pains
  • a movement restriction, such as a lack of function of the joint
  • a swelling
  • Crunching or other noises when moving are a sure sign of a break.
  • Bone misalignments are also a clear symptom.
  • Abnormal mobility is also a clear indication of a broken bone.
  • Blood loss may occur, depending on the size of the bone and the type of fracture, which can be as little as two litres in the case of a femur fracture and life-threatening five litres in the case of a pelvic fracture. At the same time, nosebleeds do not even have to occur in the case of a broken nose.

In addition, the bone ends can injure the surrounding tissue, pierce blood vessels and nerves and even emerge through the skin (a so-called open fracture).


How do you recognize a broken bone?

In some cases, the symptoms described above are sufficient to identify a broken bone. For a precise diagnosis, you should see a doctor, preferably a doctor specializing in orthopaedics or trauma surgery.

This will take X-rays because bone structures can be seen in detail on them: Deviations from the standard bone structure, irregularities in the edge contour, and even the smallest compressions and detachment of the periosteum from the bone can be detected.

Since the X-ray images are always taken in two planes, it also becomes clear whether a bending, shearing, twisting or spiral fracture, a compression fracture or an avulsion fracture is present. X-rays also usually show when a bone is only broken, although fine hairline cracks can sometimes be missed.

Further investigations

In addition to x-raying the broken bone, a doctor should always check for impaired motor function, sensitivity, and peripheral blood flow, which can provide clues that blood vessels, nerves, or tendons are injured.

In the case of polytraumatized patients, i.e. people with multiple fractures and injuries, for example, as a result of a car accident, CT scans provide information about which organs are still affected. Computed tomography is also performed in the event of a fracture of the pelvis or spine.

In the following, we present common types of bone fractures and their characteristics.


Fracture of femoral neck bone

The femoral neck fracture is one of the most common bone fractures. If you visualize the femur, it looks like an elongated “r”: It has a hook at its upper end that disappears in the hip joint.

This constriction of the bone, the femur, is particularly prone to fracture due to the immense forces applied to this area of ​​the bone during a sudden leg rotation.

So if you fall on your hip joint, for example, there’s a good chance you’ll break your femoral neck – the most common fracture in adults, especially during winter.

Broken arm and broken ribs

The bones of the forearm are also particularly at risk. The impact on frozen, slippery ground and the force that acts on the forearm bone when we support ourselves in a fall is so strong that the affected bone breaks. If an arm is broken, in addition to the symptoms mentioned above, there can also be a tingling, numbness or feeling of coldness in the hand.

In addition, fractures of the ribs, the humerus and the ankle often occur. Fractures of the collarbone – so-called clavicle fractures  – also happen frequently.

Fractures in hands and feet

A fall from a great height or a particularly severe crush force affecting the feet and hands can result in difficult-to-treat carpal and tarsal fractures. If a foot or hand is broken, the bones often heal poorly since the blood supply to the bones is very difficult in these areas.


Polytrauma after a traffic accident

In the case of injuries from traffic accidents, it is often not just a single region of the body that is affected but a large number of bones, joints and organs – the doctor then speaks of polytrauma.

The bones in the extremities are often broken in a complicated manner, and even strong bones, such as the pelvis, are affected. Pelvic fractures are particularly dangerous because they result in immense blood loss and require urgent surgical treatment.

fracture of the skull and vertebrae

Vertebral bones can also often break in traffic accidents. There is a significant risk that the bone fragments will squeeze the spinal cord, which can result in paraplegia or immediate death, depending on the location of the fracture.

Skull fractures also only occur with the use of great force, where the crushing of the brain tissue can lead to life-threatening bleeding and loss of function.

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