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Your bones are made to be hard and stable. They comprise the framework of the body, providing a foundation for every structure and system. Bones also make movement possible, and they are flexible to a very small extent.

However, when enough pressure is applied to a bone, it will break or fracture. Trauma from an acute injury, repeated stress over time, and diseases that make the bones weaker can all result in fractures. Incidentally, a “broken bone” and a “fracture” mean the same thing in the medical field.

Below, we review the different types of broken bones, including the shape and severity of the fracture.

Severity of Broken Bones

One thing most fractures have in common is the pain they cause. The severity of the fracture affects the level of pain you experience.

These are the main types of fractures in terms of how severe they are:

  • Complete Fracture – The bone is clearly broken, fully through, into two or more pieces.
  • Incomplete or Partial Fracture – There is a crack that does not reach across the entire width of the bone.
  • Greenstick Fracture – Usually seen in children, this shows a break on one side and a bend or bow on the other side. It’s a type of partial fracture.
  • Compound or Open Fracture– This occurs when the broken bone protrudes through the skin. It’s considered a complex injury because it affects more than just the bone, but also the skin and surrounding muscles and tissue.

Simple or Closed Fracture – This is another term for a partial or complete fracture that does not break the skin.

Positioning of Broken Bones

The following fracture types describe the position of the broken bone in the body:

  • Comminuted– The bone is broken into more than two pieces.
  • Nondisplaced– The fractured bone does not move out of place (a clean break).
  • Displaced– The break has one or more fragments that are out of alignment with its natural location.
  • Segmental– There are multiple fractures in one bone that create one or more separate pieces in the middle, or “segments.”
  • Angulated– A displaced fracture where the ends of the bone fragments are at an angle to each other.
  • Overriding– A displaced fracture where the bone fragments overlap.
  • Impacted– A complete, displaced fracture where one fragment is driven into (“impacting”) a second piece as a result of trauma.

Shapes of Bone Fractures

The fracture itself – as in the line across the bone that breaks it partially or into two or more pieces – also has terminology. Because the bones in the arms and legs are much longer than other bones in the body, these fractures can be described in several ways:

  • Linear – The fracture is vertical, or parallel with the main part of the bone (the shaft).
  • Transverse – A fracture that results in the fragment being approximately 90 degrees from the shaft.
  • Oblique – A fracture that results in the fragment being approximately 45 degrees from the shaft.
  • Spiral – A fracture whose line is curved, in a spiral-like pattern, instead of straight.

If you have a fracture, no matter what kind, an orthopedic specialist can provide a timely diagnosis and treatment for proper care right away.

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