Common Causes of Fractures
A fracture is a break or crack that occurs in a bone or bony cartilage, and usually accompanied by pain and swelling in the area of the fracture. Fractured or broken bones are one of the most common orthopedic injuries, with about 7 million occurring each year in the United States alone. The average person can expect two fractures in his or her lifetime.
In simplistic language, a fracture or break occurs when the bone or bony cartilage comes in contact with an energy which it is not strong enough to support. So, the extent or seriousness of a fracture is dependent upon both the energy of the event that caused it and the strength of the involved bone.
Fractures of the extremities – that is, the arms, hands, legs, and feet – are the most common and occur most often in men under 45 and in women over 45. The increase in broken bones in the latter group can be attributed to the development of osteoporosis once a woman undergoes menopause and estrogen production drops off, which can result in bone loss. Once bone loss occurs, bones are more prone to fracture of any type, but become especially prone to stress fractures, those that occur as a result of a repeated or continue low-impact event.
Fractures due to osteoporosis are often referred to as “pathologic fractures,” breaks which occur largely due to an underlying condition – in this case, osteoporosis. Tumors and some diseases of attrition, such as rickets, can also cause pathologic fractures.
To properly treat a broken bone in order for it to heal properly, the physician must determine whether or not the fractured bone is in the proper place. Often, the broken bone must be reduced, or realigned, before applying a splint, cast, or other brace. In some cases, a patient will receive local or even general anesthesia prior to reduction, but many more minor fractures are reduced or aligned without use of anesthetic.
In cases where realignment cannot be performed adequately, or where the fracture may result in the reduction becoming unstable during healing, the physician may prescribe surgery, fixing the bone with plates, screws, rods, or pins.