Broken bones can happen after an accident such as a fall, or by being hit by an object.
The 3 most common signs of a broken bone (also known as a fracture) are:
However, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether a bone is broken if it is not out of its normal position.
So there are some additional things to look out for:
- you may hear or feel a snap or a grinding noise as the injury happens
- there may be swelling, bruising or tenderness around the injured area
- you may feel pain when you put weight on the injury, touch it, press it, or move it
- the injured part may look deformed – in severe breaks, the broken bone may be poking through the skin
- you may also feel faint, dizzy or sick as a result of the shock of breaking a bone.
If the break is small or it’s just a crack, you may not feel much pain or even realise that you’ve broken anything.
Get medical help as soon as possible if you think you’ve broken a bone. If you think you may have broken your toe or finger, you can go to a minor injury unit or urgent care centre.
Go to your nearest accident and emergency hospital for a broken arm or leg. Call 999 for an ambulance if the injury to the leg seems severe or you’re not able to get to A&E quickly.
Always call 999 for very severe suspected breaks, such as a broken neck or back.
The broken bone must be properly aligned and held in place, often with a plaster cast, so it heals in the correct position.
If you do not receive the correct treatment, you could develop a serious infection or a permanent deformity. You may also have long-term problems with your joints.
It’s important not to eat or drink anything if you think you’ve broken a bone, as you may need a general anaesthetic to allow doctors to realign it.
Older people and those with osteoporosis should be particularly careful, as their bones are weaker and may break more easily.