REHAB IN MOTION: The impact of bone fractures can be significant

Broken bones, otherwise known as bone fractures, can happen for many different reasons.

Normally, people suffer from a fracture as a result of having performed an activity that subjected the bone to excessive pressure, stress, or a deep impact. For example, a fall, or a car accident, etc. If the impact is great enough, any normal person can fracture a bone. Any fracture caused by excessive impact is known as normal fracture. Fractures that occur because of repeated impacts over a period of time are known as stress fractures.

Certain medical conditions such as osteopenia, osteoporosis, bone marrow cancer, bone cyst, or inherited bone disorders can weaken the bones to such an extent that trivial impacts can also cause the bones to fracture. These fractures are different from normal fractures because the impact involved in causing the fracture can be quite trivial.  Even if the impact is not trivial it is certainly less than is necessary to fracture a normal healthy bone. This type of fracture is known as a pathologic fracture. 
A crack, not only a break, in the bone is also known as a fracture. Fractures can occur in any bone in the body. There are several different ways in which a bone can fracture; for example a clean break to the bone that does not damage surrounding tissue or tear through the skin is known as a closed fracture or a simple fracture. On the other hand, one that damages surrounding skin or tissue is known as a compound fracture or an open fracture. Compound or open fractures are generally more serious than simple fractures, with a much higher risk of infection. 
Most human bones are surprisingly strong and can generally stand up to fairly strong impacts or forces. However, if that force is too powerful, or there is something wrong with the bone, it can fracture. The precise amount of force that it takes to fracture a bone depends on many different factors such as the type of bone, the direction of the impact, the size of the object that impacts the bone and the speed at which it impacts the bone.

The older we get, the less force our bones can withstand. Approximately 50 per cent of women and about 20 per cent of men have a fracture after they are 50 years old.

Because children’s bones are more elastic, when they do have fractures they tend to be different. Children also have growth plates at the end of their bones - areas of growing bone - which may sometimes be damaged.

With all types of fractures, as soon as a fracture occurs, the body acts to protect the injured area, forming a protective blood clot and callus or fibrous tissue. New “threads” of bone cells start to grow on both sides of the fracture line. These threads grow toward each other until the fracture closes and the callus is absorbed.

Next Week… types of fractures, the healing process, and treatment and rehabilitation after a fracture.


Ben Chatterson is a physiotherapist at Rehabilitation in Motion which has four Island locations including two in Campbell River – Willow Point (250) 923-3773 and Quinsam (across from Save On Foods), (250) 286-9670 – as well as Comox Valley (250) 334-9670 and Port Alberni (250) 723-9675. Ben Chatterson works at the Comox Valley Clinic. Visit

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