If you have a broken bone or a fracture, urgent care may be able to help. Learn the different types of fractures (broken bones), what we treat, and when to go to the ER vs. urgent care.
How Do You Know a Bone is Broken?
Every year, millions of people break a bone. Broken bones typically result from a trauma like a fall, car accident, or sports injury. Medical conditions such as osteoporosis or repetitive forces like running can increase the risk of breaking a bone. A bone breaks or splits when more pressure is put on it than it can handle.
Here are some symptoms of a broken bone:
- A limb or joint is visibly out of place or no longer in a straight line.
- Swelling, bruising, or bleeding at the site of the break
- Sudden Intense pain
- Numbness and tingling
- A piece of bone sticking through the skin
- Limited mobility or incapability of moving a part of the body or bearing weight
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you think you may have broken a bone. Depending on the severity, you can go to an emergency room or urgent care for broken bones.
While waiting for medical attention, do your best to keep the affected area still and remain calm. You can apply ice packs and elevate the injured area to reduce pain and swelling. Do NOT move someone if you suspect they have a head, neck, or back injury. For injuries of this type, it is best to call 911 for transport to an emergency room.
Fracture vs. Break
It’s a common medical misconception that a bone “fracture” is different from a “broken” bone. But the two are the same thing. Fracture is just a medical term for a broken bone, so you might hear your medical provider use the words interchangeably.
Types of Fractures
- Stable Fracture: The ends of the broken bones are almost lined up, allowing for easier healing.
- Open (Compound) Fracture: This is when the bone breaks and a piece of the bone penetrates the skin. Prompt treatment for these fractures is crucial because an open wound can cause severe bleeding and can also lead to an infection. These fractures often require surgical repair.
- Transverse Fracture: This type of break has a horizontal fracture line.
- Oblique Fracture: The fracture line is in an angled pattern.
- Comminuted Fracture: The bone is broken into three or more pieces.
- Displaced Fractures: This is when your bone moves so much that a gap forms between the two pieces of the fracture. You’re more likely to need surgery with a displaced fracture.
Treatments for the different types vary. Sometimes a broken bone will need surgery, while others require only a splint, cast, brace, or sling. Getting to a doctor quickly is important because a delay in treatment can prolong healing, lead to permanent deformities, or other chronic issues.
What is a Stress Fracture?
According to The Mayo Clinic, a stress fracture is when there are tiny cracks in a bone. It’s caused by repetitive force or weakened bones. Stress fractures commonly occur in weight-bearing bones like the lower leg and foot. Those most at risk are track and field athletes, soldiers who carry heavy packs over long distances, and those with osteoporosis. Gymnasts, dancers, and basketball and tennis players are also at higher risk of stress fractures due to the high impact nature of their sports.
You might also experience a stress fracture if you rapidly increase your exercise activity. Medical experts say you shouldn’t increase your exercise by more than 10% weekly. Women, especially those with abnormal or absent menstrual periods, are at higher risk of developing stress fractures. Those with foot problems like flat feet or high, rigid arches also are at higher risk.
Should I Go to the ER vs. Urgent Care?
You should go to the ER if you have:
- An injury that occurred as a result of significant trauma (such as a car accident or high fall). Doctors will want to closely examine the rest of your body to make sure that the pain caused by a fracture is not “masking” another significant injury
- Intense pain.
- The person is unresponsive.
- Heavy bleeding.
- Deformity of a limb or joint.
- A wound from the bone breaking the skin.
- An injury to the neck, head, or back.
Otherwise, you can get proper medical attention for broken bones by going to an urgent care center.
Receive Treatment at AFC
American Family Care (AFC) offers affordable, walk-in x-ray and on-site diagnostic services. The x-ray itself should take about 15 minutes. No appointment is needed, allowing you to come immediately after the incident.
AFC has digital x-ray services that provide higher-quality images, quicker results, and more accurate diagnostics than most urgent cares. We can take x-rays of all body parts at most of our clinics. Our doctors can also apply a temporary splint (cast) and arrange a follow up appointment with a local orthopedic (bone) doctor.
Find a location near you to receive treatment.