A greenstick fracture occurs when applied pressure causes a splintering of bone that doesn’t separate it into pieces. They’re often referred to as a partial or incomplete fracture and frequently occur in children, since their bones are more pliable than adult bones. The name “greenstick” references what happens when someone tries to break a young, green branch from a tree, which tends to splinter instead of breaking apart.
When children fracture bones, it often occurs within the arm. This is because of a child’s tendency to put their arms out to absorb the impact of a fall. They can also occur on the fingers, legs, and other body parts exposed to any unexpected force.
The first signs of a greenstick fracture can be an extensive ache that doesn’t fade and intensifies over time. Here’s how to recognize when a greenstick fracture may be the cause of the discomfort instead of a bruise or sprain:
It’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible if there’s no relief from the soreness. Any delay in receiving medical attention can complicate the treatment and healing process.
The first thing doctors often do is physically inspect the area to confirm that they’re dealing with a fracture. They need full details concerning when and how the injury occurred. Doctors look at the following factors before coming to a final diagnosis:
Doctors will probably request x-rays to get a clear look at the injured bone. Doctors will also look for any possible damage to related tendons or nerves around the injury. Please note that they may need to manually straighten out limbs with a prominent bend. Patients can receive some pain medication or other anesthesia before having the procedure done.
Physicians should be informed beforehand about any known allergies or reactions a patient might have to specific types of medications. Having all of this relevant background beforehand prevents any complications from occurring during the office visit.
One of the biggest concerns for doctors when treating greenstick fractures is the possibility of it turning into a full break. Most will recommend placing a cast or removable splint on the area to stop this from happening. They’re more likely to go with the brace if it appears the injury’s already healing well on its own.
Removable splints also work better in areas that need more mobility, like the wrist. Putting a more flexible orthotic in place keeps it from getting stiff and immobile during the healing process. Doctors will opt for a stationary cast option for more severe greenstick fractures. They may also recommend surgery if they feel a complete break is imminent.
Surgery Options for Greenstick Fractures
Doctors treating younger patients will be most concerned about fractures occurring around a growth plate. These are areas of tissues located around the ends of long bones in children and adolescents. Growth plates determine the shape and length the bone will achieve at full maturity.
The recovery time for a greenstick fracture varies depending on the severity of the injury and if surgical intervention is necessary. Most fractures heal within four to eight weeks. Patients will be asked to come back for check-ups so doctors can examine how well the injury is healing.
Most doctors prescribe medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for relief from any discomfort. They’ll also look for any issues arising from the healing process.
Doctors will also examine any plates or rods placed to aid in healing. They’ll determine if they can be safely removed or kept in place permanently.
The outlook is positive for most people, once a greenstick fracture heals completely. The best way to prevent future injuries from occurring is making sure the proper equipment is worn during activities and sports that are high risk for bone breaks. Although, it can be challenging to monitor the daily activities of children to stop this from happening, especially at school or on the playground.
Greenstick fracture is further discussed in this video from Audiopedia:
Anyone that suspects they’re suffering from a fracture should get immediate medical attention. Any discomfort lasting for an extended period should be looked at even if the cause may seem to be only a bruise or a strain of some kind. Failing to treat greenstick fractures properly could lead to irreversible complications and leave patients with a permanent deformity.
Have you ever had a fracture before? What were your treatment options? Share your story with us in the comments below!