The 10 Most Painful Bone Fractures In Humans
A bone fracture is a break or cracks in the bone. The bone density cannot withstand the force applied and fractured to release the pressure. Fractures result from a wide range of accidental, intentional, or traumatic impacts to the body. In people with osteoporosis, a gentle cough or sneeze is enough to crack ribs and vertebrae without undue force or trauma.
Any bone fracture can cause pain and restrict the range of motion in the body part injured. Ironically, hairline fractures can go unrecognized in some bones and heal on their own, with the person unaware there was a crack or minor fracture. The area just felt sore and a bit swollen and bruised, but it didn’t give them any undue pain that led them to suspect the bone was broken.
Fortunately, orthopaedic surgeons specialise in bone fractures. They can treat you if you suffer a bone fracture that will not heal naturally, or if it did heal naturally, would do so at a weird angle, causing life-long adverse issues for the person.
Consider taking a basic First Aid course that teaches you how to recognise and First Aid someone with a bone fracture. Test your current First Aid knowledge with a quick fun FACE quiz.
Not all fractures are equal in pain, damage, or nature. Sometimes the placement of the break, and the way it fractures the bone can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and major trauma. Read on to discover the top 10 worst bone fractures in humans to live with and manage.
The femur is the longest and strongest of all bones in the human body and is where new platelet cells are created to replace old and dead blood cells. A femur fracture that is not the result of a traumatic accident like a motor vehicle accident, a fall from height, or a sporting injury may indicate osteoporosis, bone cancer, or domestic violence. It takes a tremendous amount of force to break a healthy femur.
Where on the femur bone the break occurs, and the type of fracture that results from the break can quickly determine if the injury will become a life-threatening injury that would result in a fatality if it were not treated correctly immediately.
A break in the femur bone can lead to severe internal and external bleeding and complications, including DVTs and blood clot formation in the thigh veins and rupturing the artery directly, requiring the application of a tourniquet.
2. Spinal Vertebrae
The spinal column comprises 33 bones called vertebrae, divided into five sections. The cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine sections, and the sacrum and coccyx bones, that all protect the spinal cord.
When a vertebral fracture occurs, it can compress the nerves running the length of the spine. Depending on the location of the fracture, a spinal fracture can affect motor and sensory function. Compression fractures can lead to severe pain, ruptured discs, and loss of height. Sometimes, it can result in partial or complete paralysis and disability. Nerve damage can lead to problems with bladder and bowel control, the sensation of touch, and the ability to feel pain or temperature extremes.
The skull is a hard, fairly robust bone composed of four plates that fuse together as we age. The hardened fused plates protect the soft brain tissue from direct damage but do not entirely remove damage to the brain that results from injuries to the head.
Patients with head injuries can develop concussions and intracranial lesions. Mild skull fractures may cause minimal trouble and heal independently, but severe skull fractures can lead to infection, brain damage, cerebrospinal fluid leak, hematoma, encephalitis, and seizures.
A fracture to the pelvis can be life-threatening. The pelvis connects the spine to the hips. The kidneys, intestines, bladder, and genitals are protectively contained within the pelvic ring. The pelvis is designed specifically and is different in women and men.
Fractures to the pelvic bone surface can cause injury to the organs. Severe complications can arise from pelvic fractures. Shock, internal bleeding, and organ damage may occur, and moving the organs about to access the fracture site, if required, can be surgically complex.
Hip fractures are the worst and most common injury in the elderly. Sadly, cats and dogs tripping over their owners as they wind about their feet and ankles frequently cause the elderly to stumble and fall, resulting in fractures to their hips, pelvis, or the head of the femur that rests in the hip socket joint.
Fractured hips require major surgery to repair or replace. Recovery is a long, slow process, and some never recover before they pass away. The long period of inactivity, mostly confined to a bed, can lead to the development of pressure sores that, over time, ulcerate, blood clots, muscle weakness, and other post-surgical complications. For elderly patients who have brittle bones, hip fractures are realistically life-threatening, and something they may never fully recover from that requires 24/7 full-time nursing care.
The wrist consists of 13 individual bones, and the hand has 27. A break in any one of the bones can affect the fluidity of hand function. Any injury to the hand or wrist is a bad fracture simply because the hands are used to do so many things, we take for granted without even realizing we are doing them. Anyone who has ever had a hand, finger, or wrist injury will quickly tell you that something as simple as rubbing your eyes, wiping your nose, or scratching some part of your body becomes an unexpected ordeal with the wrist or hand out of action.
If left untreated, wrist and hand fractures can lead to long-term consequences, such as early osteoarthritis, nerve damage, and decreased grip strength and range of motion.
The ankle provides stability and mobility. A fractured ankle bone needs to be immobilized and correctly realigned or surgically pinned. Weak ankles lead to frequent twisting and rolling that eventually give way to fractures. There is a significant period of immobility with ankle fractures. A fractured ankle can result in damage and tearing to the surrounding ligaments and blood vessels. Improper treatment and recovery can lead to long-term consequences such as osteoarthritis, permanent limp, and range of motion disabilities that progressively worsen with age.
Fractured ribs can be extremely painful! If the rib bone is fractured into several pieces, or several ribs are fractured completely, the broken bones can pierce vital organs like the lungs causing hemopneumothorax, the liver, the heart, and the intestines or stomach. A severe rib fracture can cause major damage to vital organs that are not immediately apparent and develop quickly over the hours following the original injury.
Ribs that are cracked or develop hairline fractures are not dangerous to vital organs and quickly heal within a week or two. Taking a deep breath, yawning, sneezing, and coughing when you have broken ribs is not something you do by choice, and in some cases, even breathing would be gladly foregone if it was an option.
A tailbone fracture can make life difficult, and there is no way to hold the fractured tailbone in place. Sitting down can be painful and usually requires a rubber ring to help ease some of the pain.
Bowel movements can become excruciating, leading to constipation that only exacerbates the problem and requires laxatives or enemas to correct. Any movement that involves muscles below the naval may be impaired for the duration of the injury, including acts of copulation and sitting, even for short periods.
A broken elbow is not that common, but it is extremely painful. Fractures in the elbow can make it impossible to straighten or bend the arm, depending on where and how the bone is fractured. Loss of feeling in the hand and fingers may be quickly apparent. If the elbow is broken into several pieces, it can be difficult to hold the bones in place without surgical intervention.
Loose bones can become a problem as they no longer have a fresh blood supply and die, unable to heal, and require surgical removal. Elbow injuries tend to heal slowly and are one of the few bones that require a good range of physio rehabilitation exercises to prevent stiffness and seizing and restore the normal range of motion being kept in a cast at a set angle the bone is healing. Permanent damage can occur to the elbow joint without treatment and where corrupted bone calcification has occurred while healing.
Corrupted bone calcification may completely restrict the ability to bend or straighten the arm and require the bone to be surgically re-broken, shaped, and corrected in extreme cases.
First Aid For Bone Fractures Collectively
There are many complications and long-term consequences that can potentially arise from either a complete lack of medical treatment or as a result of substandard fracture treatment. The best First Aid for fracture is to immobilise the injury site and visit your local accident and emergency room for X-Rays. If the fracture has pierced the skin and the bone is sticking out, apply firm pressure around the bone to control the bleeding. Make a ring bandage and place around the protrusion to stabilise the bone and provide surface area to apply pressure and stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has been controlled, place the limb into a sling or splint and secure to the body to prevent movement and unnecessary pain. If the bleeding cannot be stopped with pressure alone, a tourniquet must be applied roughly one palm width above the fracture until the bleeding does stop and no tighter. Note the time the tourniquet was applied and relay that information to the medical personnel when you present for treatment.
Bones are comprised of calcium, which is technically a metal, yet in the human body, it has a hard, chalky appearance and texture that looks nothing like metal as we envision metal when the word is spoken.
There is a huge difference between a crack or hairline fracture and an actual complete break in the bone that renders two or more fragments where there should only be one. Cracks and hairline fractures will typically heal quickly without any intervention. They are routinely given a back slab, a brace, or a full cast that is used to prevent the injured limb from being further used or knocked, exacerbating the break while it heals.
Even suspected fractures require an x-ray to see what is going on under the skin, how bad the fracture is, or is not, and what treatment is necessary.
Larger, more detailed body scans include CT scans and MRI imagining. Typically, limb fractures only require X-rays. The more detailed scans are for the areas of the body that X-rays don’t penetrate well or where the treating doctor is checking to ensure there is no surrounding tissue, nerve, or blood supply corruption or damage.