Breaking a bone is an injury that happens to people of all ages. Some types of bone breaks, or fractures, are more common among children. Others occur more among adults or seniors. Also, not all fractures are the same. In fact, there are many types, depending on how the bone breaks. Treatment and recovery time also vary, based on the type of fracture. Here are some of the most common bone fractures, how they happen, and what you can expect during treatment and recovery.
The collarbone, or clavicle, is one of the most frequently broken bones. It’s the most common type of fracture in children and teens. Seniors usually break their collarbones from a hard fall. Younger adults, teens, and children are more likely to break their collarbone in a car accident or from playing sports. After a simple fracture of the collarbone, you may need a sling to keep the arm still while the break heals. A severe collarbone fracture may require surgery. Physical therapy can help improve stiffness and shoulder movement after a collarbone fracture.
If you fall, you’re likely to catch yourself by putting out your hands. The result can be a broken wrist. It’s one of the most common fractures in seniors and children. A broken wrist is most often a distal radius fracture—when the break is at the end of one of the long bones, or the radius, in your arm, near your wrist. Car accidents, sports injuries, and falls—especially from a height, like from a ladder—often cause these breaks. A splint, cast or surgery are the normal treatment. Physical therapy can help restore movement and strength. However, stiffness may last a couple years.
Broken bones in the ankle are common, especially in middle-aged people. These breaks can affect the end of the long bones in the leg, the tibia and fibula, and a small bone that connects them to the heel. Falls, car accidents, and any injury that twists or rolls the ankle can cause a fracture. Sometimes it’s still possible to walk with a broken ankle. However, you may need a special supportive shoe, a cast, or surgery to treat this type of fracture. Physical therapy and strengthening exercises are an important part of recovery.
The vertebrae are the bones that surround your spinal cord and protect it from injury. Vertebral fractures are the most common breaks among people who have osteoporosis—a disease that weakens bones. When these bones are very weak, just coughing, sneezing or twisting can fracture a vertebra. Vertebral fractures are sometimes a first warning sign of osteoporosis. However, a healthy person can also break a vertebra, usually in an accident. For instance, a hard fall can break a vertebra. Mild vertebral fractures usually get better with some rest. Severe fractures may need surgery.
5. Hip Fracture
Among older people, broken hips are common. They’re also one of the most serious fractures in seniors. The bone that breaks is the top of the long bone in the leg, or the femur, that connects to the hip joint. The break most often happens as the result of a fall. Landing on the hip or having something hit the hip very hard can cause a hip fracture. Surgery helps a fractured hip heal more quickly. However, not everyone is healthy enough for surgery. If this is the case, the treatment is bed rest. Physical therapy can improve stiffness and help you walk again.
The two bones in the lower part of the arm, the radius and ulna, are common bones that break in adults and children. They may break from a fall on the arm, a hard hit to the arm, or a motorcycle or car accident. Sometimes the bone shatters into many pieces. You may need a cast, brace or surgery to treat the broken bone. The best treatment will depend on the type of break. It’s important to keep the arm still for the first few weeks. As you recover, you’ll need physical therapy to help your arm move normally and make the muscles stronger.
It’s hard to break the long bones in the body because they’re so strong. It takes a lot of force to fracture one of these bones. One way this could happen would be the forces from a car accident. The shinbone, or tibia, is the long bone that’s broken most often. Usually if the tibia breaks, you’ll have other injuries, too. You may need a splint, brace, cast or surgery to treat a shinbone fracture. The best treatment will depend on your health and on the type of break. You may need to use a walker or crutches to help you walk while you recover. Physical therapy can help make your leg muscles strong again.