Fractures are common in all age groups; however, they are frequently seen in children because of their constant physical activity outdoors and in the elderly because of tendency to weak bones. A study reveals that the chance of suffering a fracture increases with the increase in age for both the genders. Thus, ensuring a high calcium intake from sources like milk, butter, cheese, buttermilk, custard-apple, is important to maintain strong bones in the long run.
Usually not life threatening, fractures demand prompt medical attention. The signs and symptoms of fracture may vary, with the commonest being excruciating pain and loss of movement of the fractured bone or joint. Your doctor will easily diagnose a fracture using an X-ray. Only rare cases, like hairline fractures of the spine vertebrae or skull need a CT scan or MRI scan for diagnosis. Treatment depends on the position of the fracture and its effect on balance and load bearing.
Signs of a Fracture
- A cracking or snapping sound is often heard and experienced
- Swelling, numbness, tenderness, bruising, or bluish coloration of the affected area
- Severe pain on slightest touch and movement
- Deformations of the affected area or any protruding bone
- Immense weakness of the part
Basic first aid knowledge is vital during such emergency situations as availability of medical help may take some time. Following are a few simple steps that can be kept in mind.
The R.I.C.E Method
First aid for fracture can be easily memorized as RICE where R-rest, I- ice pack, C-compression and E-Elevation. This summarizes the most basic steps involved in attending to a fracture, no matter where you are and what age the person who has the suspected fracture.
R – Rest
- The injured area should be immobilized and all further movement should be avoided to prevent further damage.
- Support should be provided to the injured area. The ideal way is to wrap around a crepe bandage, but this might not be handy. Instead, use a dupatta, towel or any cloth that you can get hold off. The bandage should not be tied too tightly, so that blood circulation is not hampered.
- A splint can be made by folding cardboard, magazines, or newspapers or using a stick or ruler. This can be tied underneath the suspected area to prevent movement and lend support.
I – Ice
- Ice should be applied to reduce the bleeding, pain and swelling. A piece of cloth should be held between the ice and skin to avoid skin damage. Ice application narrows the blood vessel and helps stop bleeding and accompanying swelling.
- No experimental procedures such as bone setting or putting back the dislocated bone should be performed as this may aggravate the injury.
C – Compression
- If bleeding occurs, it should be stopped using light but firm, constant application of pressure over a clean cloth or sterile bandage. Do this till the bleeding stops.
E – Elevation
- Support the fractured area and try and raise it above the level of the heart to reduce swelling. This might not always be possible.
- Medical help should be availed as soon as possible. The doctor may decide on applying a cast, or surgery may be required.
Fracture treatment is decided keeping in mind the age of the injured person and the location and severity of the injury. Bone healing is a natural process that requires only adequate support and immobilization of the injured part for nature to heal the fracture. A procedure called ‘reduction’ involves the alignment of the dislocated bones, which brings the injured bones back to their normal positions, enabling recovery thereafter. In order to maintain the position of the aligned bones, a casting of plaster of Paris or metal plate is used.
Infections generally occur in open fractures where the cracked bone gets exposed to the environment. Infections may prolong the process of healing; thus, open fractures are treated with antibiotics and a tetanus prophylaxis injection might be necessary. Fractures may lead to other complications making routine follow ups till complete recovery occurs important.
With regular exercise, calcium-rich diet and 30 minutes of sunlight for your daily dose of vitamin D, you can ensure fracture-free bones for a lifetime!