One of the most common reasons for patients to visit an urgent care is when they’ve injured a body part and need an x-ray. Many times, the patient is concerned that they’ve broken the bone and might need a splint or cast. With many so active with sports, both in school and recreationally, the need for convenient, competent access to orthopedic care has become increasingly necessary.
When you injure a body part, especially if it’s an extremity like an arm, leg, wrist or ankle, you may wonder if its broken or merely sprained. Here are a few hints to help you better determine if an injury is a fracture or a bad sprain. But bear in mind, sometimes only an x-ray is the definitive way to confirm a fracture.
Signs of a Fracture
- Inability to move – especially near the joint (but this is also common with a bad sprain)
- Deformity near the area due to bone movement
- Nausea, light-headedness, fainting
If any of these signs are present, you should seek medical care immediately.
Not all fractures are created equal. Some are less severe and in many ways, are easier to manage and heal faster than bad sprains or more complicated ligament tears.
Types of Fractures
- Simple, non-displaced fracture – often the most common, the bone is still in place with a fracture running through it.
- Displaced- A more serious fracture, the bone has split apart and often is moved away from its normal position. If it has move too far, it may also break out of the skin – see open/compound fracture below.
- Spiral – A type of fracture often resulting from twisting type of force that produces fractures running around the bone. It may also be displaced.
- Comminuted – A serious fracture where the bone is broken into multiple pieces. This type of fracture nearly always requires surgery and the use of pins, plates, or screws to put the bone back together.
- Compound – A fracture that has pushed through the outer skin. The bone may not be sticking out now, but may have gone back underneath after the initial injury. This is also a serious injury and requires IMMEDIATE medical attention.
- Greenstick – Occurs most often in children and gets its name because it resembles a green stick which tends to bend but not completely break. Often, young children’s bones will likewise, bend, but not completely break.
- Buckle – Again, this occurs commonly in children because of their softer bones. Essentially, one side of the bone “buckles” but does not break. Very often a buckle fracture can be conservatively managed and heals very quickly.
If you do have a fracture and it can be treated at the urgent care, expect that it MAY NOT be casted immediately.
Often casting cannot be completed until initial swelling goes down. This can take a few days to a week. The urgent care will most likely splint the injured extremity in the meantime and recommend the following treatment:
- Anti-inflammatory mediation
If the fracture cannot be managed at the urgent care, you can expect to be splinted and referred to either a local orthopedic specialist for further care OR the nearest emergency department.