What Is A Greenstick Fracture?

What Is A Greenstick Fracture?

Is It A Fracture Or A Break?

It is suggested that the average person statistically will break a bone twice during their life. Not surprisingly fractures (or breaks) are one of the most common orthopedic problems.
A greenstick fracture is a type of broken bone. For the record a broken bone is not worse than a fracture, they mean the same thing. A fractured bone is a broken bone and vice versa. It is true you can sustain different types of fractures or breaks. There are different classifications with-in the term fracture but a fracture and a break are one in the same.

A Greenstick Fracture

There are several different ways in which a bone can fracture and one such fracture is a greenstick fracture. The term greenstick fracture comes from the analogy of breaking a young, fresh tree branch. Where attempting to break such branch the branch snaps on one side. Snapping on the outer side to which it is bent, while the inner side of the branch simply bends but does not break. Therefore this sort of fractures remains its continuity. Hence it is classified as an incomplete fracture. Where one side of the bone has broken and one side is bent.

As suggested above, this happens because children’s’ bones are softer and more flexible than those of an adults. Meaning they are more likely to bend than actually break in half. A greenstick fracture sees the bone crack but doesn’t break all the way through. Exactly like when you try to break a fresh green tree branch.

Bones At Risk Of Greenstick Fractures

Fractures in children frequently occur when a child falls playing sport. Although not exclusively, arm bones commonly suffer greenstick fractures. This is because of the tendency to react by throwing out your arms to break a fall.

Diagnosing Greenstick Fractures

A general rule is that you should seek medical attention if your child is unable to bear weight on the affected limb. Or if they demonstrate decreased range of motion in the injured limb, or associated joints.
Greenstick fractures may not show the classic signs and symptoms of a typical fracture. Therefore they can at times be difficult to diagnose. The intense pain and obvious deformity typical of broken bones, may be only minimal present, or even absent in greenstick fractures. As a result it can be difficult to distinguish soft-tissue injury, or joint sprain, from a greenstick fracture.
X-rays will reveal most greenstick fractures, however can sometimes be difficult to view on X ray. As a result it may be necessary that your doctor refers for an ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT) scan for better viewing. Also to help with diagnosis, your doctor may request an X-ray of the uninjured limb, for comparison purposes.

Greenstick Fracture Treatment

As with the majority of broken bones, incomplete breaks like a greenstick fracture, require immobilization. Often a greenstick fracture requires being bent back into the correct position (referred to as “reduction”). Reduction of the fracture enables the bone to grow back properly. Following reduction, the limb is then immobilized for a period of time.
Generally children’s bones heal faster than those of adults, however greenstick fractures often take a long time to heal. This is because they occur in the slower growing part of the bone. Occurring in the middle shaft of long bones. Hence immobilization is frequently required for 6-8 weeks following reduction, to allow the bone to grow back strongly.

Reducing The Risk Of Your Child Suffering A Greenstick Fracture

  • Always seat them in the appropriate car seat and seat belt for their age.
  • Ensure they always wear the appropriate safety gear for the sports they engage in.
  • Encourage your child partake in regular exercise, which helps build strong bones.
  • Ensure there is adequate calcium in their diet to help in the building of strong bones.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on What Is A Greenstick Fracture? should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

2 thoughts on “What Is A Greenstick Fracture?

  1. Leeanne says:

    Can a greenstick break in the middle of the large bone that runs from the elbow to the wrist be as painful as a broken bone? Lee

  2. Hayden Latimer says:

    Hi Lee
    Sorry for the delay, seeing as a greenstick break is in fact a broken bone, the answer is yes this type of fracture can be as painful as other types of broken bones.

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