How to Heal Broken Bones and Fractures: A Guide to Aftercare

Whether it’s a skateboarding misadventure, fall down the stairs, or a workplace accident, broken bones can happen to anyone. While commonly associated with childhood, broken bones on patients of all ages are a common injury we see in Urgent Care. 

Most broken bones in children are the result of falls. Young and middle-aged adults are more likely to suffer broken bones from accidents like vehicle collisions, while seniors are at risk of osteoporosis and fall injuries.

No matter the cause of a bone fracture or the age of the person experiencing it, it’s vital to care for broken and fractured bones the right way. Getting fixed up by an Urgent Care doctor is only the first step in the road to recovery. The weeks and months after your injury are just as important as getting prompt first aid for broken bones.

Read on to learn about the types of fractures and the care steps you should take to heal properly.

Types of Broken Bones

Bone fractures come in many forms, ranging from tiny cracks to complicated full-thickness breaks. The seriousness and type of fracture you have will play a large role in your recovery process. Here’s a quick overview of the most common types of fractures, in increasing order of severity.

Hairline Fracture

Also called “stress fractures,” hairline fractures are small cracks that form along a bone. They often happen due to repetitive stress like long-distance running.

While these are painful, they don’t require surgery to fix. Treatment involves keeping weight off the affected area and sometimes wearing a splint to allow the bone to heal.

Greenstick Fracture

Greenstick fractures happen in small children whose bones are not finished developing. Because their bones are still pliable, they can bend under stress without breaking. While bending prevents breaking, it can result in multiple partial-thickness fractures.

Full-Thickness Fractures

Full-thickness fractures are clean breaks through the bone. If the break happens at a 90-degree angle to the bone shaft, it’s called a transverse fracture. If the break occurs at an angle, it’s known as an oblique fracture.

Some full-thickness breaks are stable and can be treated with a cast, while more serious breaks may require surgery to stabilize.

Spiral Fracture

This type of break happens due to a twisting injury. It results in a full-thickness break, but unlike other full-thickness breaks, the edges of the bone are jagged due to the type of force applied. Spiral fractures are a complicated fracture that almost always needs surgical intervention.

Comminuted Fracture

A comminuted fracture happens when the bone is crushed or broken into multiple tiny fragments. This type of fracture can’t heal on its own and requires surgery to remove bone chips from surrounding tissue and rebuild the bone. Comminuted fractures often happen as a result of severe trauma, like a car accident. 

Simple Vs. Compound Fractures

All of the above types of fractures will fall into either the “simple” or “compound” category. 

A simple fracture, also caused a closed fracture, does not break the skin. These can be harder to diagnose initially, but can still have a long and complicated healing process if not handled properly. 

A compound fracture, also called an open fracture, involves breaking the skin as well. Edges of the broken bone pierce through the skin and create an open wound. In general, compound fractures have a higher risk of infection and are more likely to require surgery.

How to Care for a Fracture at Home

When you return home from Urgent Care after breaking a bone, you’ll have to adjust to a new way of doing things for a while.

Broken bones are painful, even when they’re supported by a splint or cast. Your doctor may recommend that you take NSAIDs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain and swelling. In some cases, they may also give you a short-term dose of a prescription painkiller or osteoporosis medication to prevent future breaks.

At the beginning of your fracture recovery, it’s best to keep weight off the affected bone and give it time to rest. Once your doctor clears you to move around, gentle exercise will help increase blood flow to the area and improve healing. He or she may also recommend that you attend physical therapy to strengthen the area and increase your flexibility. 

If you have a plaster cast, make sure not to get it wet or apply direct heat to the area. Doing so will damage the cast and can lengthen your healing time.

Of course, always follow your clinician’s advice and continue to monitor your injury. If at any point you start to feel numb or tingly around the broken bone or notice your digits turning blue, get to a doctor right away. You may be experiencing swelling under your cast that’s reducing blood flow.

Adaptations

The first thing to do when you return home is to have someone go through your house and remove hazardous items. This might be slippery rugs, piles of clutter, or tripping hazards like extension cords and phone lines. Taking this step reduces your chances of falling and causing further injury.

Many people will also have to use some sort of adaptive equipment as the fracture heals. This may be a walker, crutches, or a cane for getting around. Other adaptive equipment, like shower chairs and raised toilet seats, can increase your ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs).

Depending on which bone(s) you broke and how much it impacts your life, you may need someone to help you with ADLs until you’ve healed. This is especially true for seniors who break load-bearing bones in their hips or legs. They may benefit from a home health aide or a temporary stay in a care facility.

Surgery Aftercare

If you had a compound, spiral, or comminuted fracture, there’s a good chance that you had surgery to repair it. Recovering from surgery is more complicated than just wearing a cast or splint, though there’s a lot of overlap in the aftercare process. Your surgeon will give you instructions for self-care at home before you leave the hospital.

For wounds that don’t seem to be healing properly, visit an urgent care center to have them take a look at it. Ignoring a minor skin infection at an incision site for too long could be life-threatening and could even require another procedure to fix it. 

Visit Your Local Urgent Care If There’s a Problem in Your Fracture Recovery

Even minor broken bones can cause major problems if they aren’t cared for properly. 

If you think you may have a fracture or that a previously treated break is healing poorly, visit CityHealth Urgent Care to get it checked out. The physicians there can order any necessary imaging and make sure the bone healing process is going well.

Are you looking for an urgent care center in the Oakland or San Leandro areas? The Urgent Care experts at CityHealth Urgent Care are ready to give you the prompt treatment you need. Walk-in is available daily from 9 am-5 pm or contact us to schedule an appointment.