How to Know If It's a Broken Bone

​​Sometimes it's hard to tell if you (or someone you know) has a broken bone or something less severe. If you experience any sort of traumatic injury or pain, make sure you contact a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Here are five ways to know if it's a broken bone (what orthopaedic surgeons call a fracture).

​The limb is deformed

If the limb doesn’t look like it normally does or is bent at an awkward angle, it's likely a displaced fracture or bone break that is angled. This can be tough to see sometimes with swelling. If this occurs with a skin laceration or a bleeding area around the deformity, you should contact a doctor right away or go to the emergency room. Fractures exposed to the air can become infected and need urgent treatment.

​The injury is swollen and bruised

Sudden acute injuries cause traumatic swelling, and, if broken, blood that is leaking from a broken bone can cause bruising. This will be especially obvious if it is in an area that is not a joint. The swelling is typically directly over the bone that is broken and extends around the area.

If a fracture or break in the bone extends into a joint, the joint may also get swollen. This can make the joint feel very stiff when you try to move it.

​The injury causes pain with movement or pressure

A person with a broken bone will experience severe pain. With many injuries, the pain gets worse if the area is moved or pressure is applied. In addition, the pain will occur directly on the bone when touched. Pain only in the muscle is rarely a sign of a break in the bone.

​The injury causes crepitus or grinding

This is when a person can feel two bits of broken bone rubbing together. This feeling may be similar to the sensation you get when you walk on gravel barefoot.

​The injury causes reduced or lost function

When bones break, the basic supportive structure of your body is compromised. This means that you may lose the ability to move the limb or bear weight on a leg or arm.

​Learn ​more about orthopaedic services at The Christ Hospital.

Dr. Jolson ​is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with The Christ Hospital Physicians.