Broken Bones: The Basics

One of the worst things to happen to a physio is to injure your hands, unfortunately this has happened to me and I’m currently sporting a snazzy finger/hand splint.  The result of a misjudged dive has resulted in a displaced fracture of my 5th proximal phalanx on my left hand (pinkie finger).  The location of a bone fracture and the features of the fracture determine the optimal management, whether this be surgical or non-surgical management (in my case this was surgical).

If you’ve recently had to make the trip to emergency, the GP or  your physio and had to undertake x-rays – then you may be aware of some of the following jargon but might not quite understand what it means.  This blog will breakdown some of the terminology of bone fractures to assist your understanding of your bones and the fracture you may have.

Starting with the basics:

Open Fracture (commonly known as Compound Fracture): This is where the fracture (broken bone) breaks through the skin and is visible on the outside of the skin. Most often the wound is caused by a fragment of the bone breaking through the skin at the moment of injury.  These fractures require immediate medical intervention (surgical intervention) to not only realign the bone, but to also clean the wound due to the risk of infection.

Closed Fracture: This is where the bone breaks, but does not piece the skin (nil wound on the skin).  These are more common than Open Fractures and will always require medical intervention to triage management.

Partial Fracture: An incomplete break of the bone.

Complete Fracture: A Complete break of the bone, causing the bone to be separated into 2 or more pieces.

Stable Fracture: This occurs when the broken ends of the bone are in alignment, with minimal displacement. These fractures often do not require surgical intervention, rather conservative efforts to stabiliise the bone (casting, splinting, immobilisation) are sufficient to allow appropriate healing – as the bone is in the correct position.

Unstable Fracture (commonly known as Displaced Fracture): An unstable fracture is when the two ends of the bone in a complete fracture, do not remain aligned.  There may be a gap in the two ends of the bone, or they may be completely shifted in position. These fractures will require reduction (where the bones are brought back into alignment) to allow for appropriate healing of the bone.

Unfortunately for me, I sustained an unstable (displaced) fracture – which resulted in a surgical reduction and fixation of the bone.  Fortunately for me, I am a Physiotherapist working in a fantastic clinic where I can receive appropriate and regular Physiotherapy from our wonderful team of Sydney Physios.

One of the most important things following any fracture is to seek medical guidance on how to appropriately return to movement, exercise and active daily tasks. If you have sustained an injury recently or in the past, and you are considering returning to exercise – you should prioritize an assessment from a Physiotherapist to guide you towards your goals.

Patrick Nelson

About Patrick Nelson

Patrick joined the team at Bend + Mend following a move to Sydney from the Central Coast, NSW. After Graduating with Honours from Newcastle University, Patrick has developed his career in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy in both Private Practice and the Hospital Setting. Patrick has done further study into Dry Needling, injury prevention programming for strength and conditioning, shoulder rehabilitation and taping methods. Patrick has a strong interest in injury prevention and sports performance. Having a background of working in variety of sports from grass roots netball to professional rugby league, he enjoys getting to the root of your musculoskeletal issue and developing a planned approach to returning you to the pitch, as safely and as soon as possible.

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