Fracture vs. Break: What’s the Difference?

Written By: Joseph Cescon

It is vital to understand that a fracture and a break are the exact same injury. “Fracture” is simply a medical term that is used to describe a broken bone, or any loss of bone. Whether the patient has suffered a small hairline crack, or they have shattered the bone entirely, it is classified as a fracture.


It’s all about presentation

When a doctor pulls up an x-ray or talks about a broken bone, they always say fracture. If a doctor were to say “here’s your break”, it would simply sound unprofessional. However, if they were to talk directly to you about your injury, they would likely refer to your broken bone as just that, a broken bone. For example, “you broke your shin bone”. Generally, in the medical field, a break is used as a verb, and a fracture is used as a noun.

What is a sprain?

Like a fracture, a sprain is an orthopaedic injury. However, a sprain refers to an injury to a joint, while a fracture refers to a bone. You usually cannot tell the difference between a fracture and a sprain by looking at your injury, which is why it’s incredibly important to always seek medical attention in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Furthermore, you can break a bone but you can’t break a joint. You can tear the ligaments and tissues surrounding a bone, which can result in a similar pain and bruising, but you can’t break them. This is called a sprain.

What causes bones to break/ fracture?

There are many difference situations where a bone can break. However, they can typically be broken down into the following reasons:

  • Repetitive stress
    • Bone injuries that are caused by repetitive stress are called stress fractures. They occur when repeated stress is put on the bone, as opposed to a blunt force. This type of fracture is often seen in athletes, like long distance runners.
  • Too much energy
    • These kinds of fractures occur when the bone is impacted with more energy than it can sustain. These types of injuries often occur in car accidents, sport injuries and falls.
  • Pathological
    • Fractures can also occur as a result of the bone weakening. Age, disease, Osteoporosis, tumours, infection, bone thinning or other bone-related conditions can play a role in these fractures.

Treatment of broken bones truly depends on the kind of break that has occurred. Without proper treatment, your fracture may not heal properly, which can result in a variety of other long-term orthopedic issues. Additionally, if your injury occurred as a result of a slip and fall, car accident, or another situation involving someone else’s negligence, you may want to seek professional advice from a personal injury lawyer. You could be entitled to compensation for your fracture.

Joseph Cescon


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