There are a variety of different fractures like compound fractures, and spiral fractures. What people rarely talk about though is greenstick fractures. A greenstick fracture can be the scariest to deal with because as a parent you often have to catch the signs and symptoms in a child that is not able to speak as of yet but they can occur in children up to the age of 10. Thank you to orthopedist John Insall and Michael Slupecki for making the discovery of Greenstick fractures.
What is a Greenstick Fracture?
A greenstick fracture occurs in infants and young children when their bones are still soft. Since the bone is soft it fractures and bends at the same time. Think of when a stick is wet, and it bends easily breaking one side, but the other side of the bone is entirely intact. That is what happens with a greenstick fracture.
The fracture line does not crack all the way through the bone. It just breaks the side that was bent and bowed out, whereas the other side is pushed closer together from the bowed pressure.
How Does a Greenstick Fracture Occur?
Falling causes most greenstick fractures to occur. The natural response to falling is to try and catch yourself and in doing so the bone bows under pressure creating a greenstick fracture.
Signs and Symptoms
- Tenderness in area
- Inconsolable crying after a fall
- Painful to move
It can be hard to catch greenstick fractures or partial fractures because the bone does not break entirely into two pieces. What that means is that the bone is still functional, but it is just painful. If you have a broken leg, it cannot be walked on whereas a greenstick fracture can be.
How Will a Doctor Diagnose a Greenstick Fracture?
If a doctor has any concern of a fracture, it will ultimately be them sending you in for an x-ray that will show if there has been a fracture or not. The reasons to see a doctor in the first place will be if there is a noticeable bend in a bone if it hurts to put weight on a bone or if the pain in a limb does not go away after a few days.
At an appointment, a doctor will run some simple tests before sending you in for an x-ray. These test will include checking for swelling, deformity, and numbness. The doctor may ask you to move certain things and check body parts above and below the injury.
How are Greenstick Fractures Treated?
When the limb has been bent or bowed out the doctor will need to straighten it to help it heal properly. It can be quite painful to do this so some form of pain medication or anesthesia will be given. Otherwise, the fractures are often splinted instead of put in a hard cast. It is more helpful this way as casts are not able to get wet which is hard for many children. It will usually take 4 – 8 weeks to heal this fracture.