Fractures are a common injury that occurs when an external force causes a bone to break. While most fractures are treatable and heal within six weeks, others require medical intervention to heal properly. Leaving a fracture untreated can result in serious consequences.
What are the Symptoms of a Fracture?
A fracture can be identified by the following symptoms:
- Swelling, bruising, or redness over the affected area
- Pain or tenderness, especially when pressure is applied
- Deformity or inability to move the affected area
- A snapping or grinding sound during movement
Short-Term Consequences of an Untreated Fracture
Leaving a fracture untreated can result in a variety of short-term consequences:
Ignoring a fracture can lead to the delay of the healing process. The longer the injury goes untreated, the more difficult it is for the fracture to heal when treatment is eventually sought.
Leaving a fractured bone untreated can also lead to infection. The open wound created by the fracture can become infected if proper hygiene and care is not taken, resulting in additional health problems.
Nerve and Blood Vessel Damage
In some cases, leaving a fracture untreated can lead to nerve and blood vessel damage. This can result in additional health problems and complications, including nerve pain, numbness, and tissue death (necrosis).
Long-Term Consequences of an Untreated Fracture
The long-term consequences of an untreated fracture can be more severe and can include the following:
Leaving a bone fracture untreated can lead to long-term joint problems and arthritis. The damage caused by the fracture can cause the joints to wear down over time and result in chronic pain and discomfort.
Malunion and Nonunion
If a bone fracture is left untreated, it may result in malunion or nonunion. Malunion occurs when the broken bone heals in an incorrect position, while nonunion happens when the bone never heals at all. Both of these conditions can cause long-term problems and may require additional medical intervention.
Ignoring a fracture can lead to chronic pain, which can severely affect an individual’s quality of life. The pain can be constant or intermittent and can prevent individuals from performing everyday tasks.
In some cases, an untreated fracture can result in long-term disability. If the fracture causes significant damage to a joint or affects mobility, it may be impossible for the individual to return to their pre-injury level of functioning.
Can a Fracture Heal on its Own?
While some fractures can heal on their own, it is not recommended. An untreated fracture can result in a variety of serious health problems and complications, as outlined above. Seeking medical treatment for a fracture is essential to ensure proper healing and to prevent additional health problems.
Treatments for Fractures
Treatments for fractures vary depending on the type and severity of the injury; however, the most common treatment options include:
- Immobilization of the affected area
- Pain management
- Surgery to reset the bone
- Physical therapy to increase strength and mobility in the affected area
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you suspect that you have a bone fracture, immediate medical attention is necessary. The sooner you seek treatment, the less likely you are to experience long-term complications.
Emergency Warning Signs
Seek emergency medical care immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Visible bone protrusion from the skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe bleeding
- Difficulty breathing
Leaving a bone fracture untreated can result in serious short and long-term consequences. Seeking immediate medical attention is essential to ensure proper healing and to prevent additional health problems. If you suspect that you have a bone fracture, seek medical attention immediately.
What happens if I leave a fracture untreated?
Leaving a fracture untreated can result in short-term complications such as delayed healing, infection, and nerve and blood vessel damage. Long-term consequences can include arthritis, malunion and nonunion, chronic pain, and disability.
Can a fracture heal on its own?
While some fractures can heal on their own, it is not recommended. Seeking medical treatment for a fracture is essential to ensure proper healing and to prevent additional health problems.
What are the treatments for fractures?
Common treatments for fractures include immobilization of the affected area, pain management, surgery to reset the bone, and physical therapy to increase strength and mobility in the affected area.
When should I seek medical attention for a fracture?
If you suspect that you have a bone fracture, immediate medical attention is necessary. The sooner you seek treatment, the less likely you are to experience long-term complications. Seek emergency medical care if you experience visible bone protrusion from the skin, loss of consciousness, severe bleeding, or difficulty breathing.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2017). Fractures. Retrieved from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/fractures/
- Brosseau, L., et al. (2012). Physical therapy treatment of patients with musculoskeletal disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK117196/