Fractured means broken. Whether you have a complete or a partial fracture, you have a broken bone. A bone may be completely fractured or partially fractured in any number of ways (cross-wise, lengthwise, in the middle).
Fractures can happen in a variety of ways, but there are three common causes:
Usually, you will know immediately if you’ve broken a bone. You may hear a snap or cracking sound. The area around the fracture will be tender and swollen. A limb may be deformed, or a part of the bone may puncture through the skin. Doctors usually use an X-ray to verify the diagnosis. Stress fractures are more difficult to diagnose, because they may not immediately appear on an X-ray. However, there may be pain, tenderness and mild swelling.
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. The fracture is closed and the callus is absorbed.
Doctors use casts, splints, pins or other devices to hold a fracture in the correct position while the bone is healing.
Fractures take several weeks to several months to heal, depending the extent of the injury and how well you follow your doctor’s advice. Pain usually stops long before the fracture is solid enough to handle the stresses of normal activity.
Even after your cast or brace is removed, you may need to continue limiting your activity until the bone is solid enough to use in normal activity. Usually, by the time the bone is strong enough, the muscles, for instance in your leg or arm, will be weak because they haven’t been used. Your ligaments may feel "stiff" from not using them. You’ll need a period of rehabilitation that involves exercises and gradually increasing activity before those tissues will perform their functions normally, and the healing process is complete.