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What Is A Greenstick Fracture?

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 then 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, remaining still in 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 adult, meaning they are more likely to bend than actually break completely 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.

The Bones At Risk Of Greenstick Fractures

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

Diagnosing Greenstick Fractures

A general rule I would advise you to seek medical attention if your child is unable to bear weight on the affected limb or demonstrates decreased range of motion in the injured limb or the associated joints.
Greenstick fractures may not show the classic signs and symptoms of a typical fracture and therefore they can be difficult to diagnose. The intense pain and obvious deformity that is frequently typical of broken bones may be minimal or even absent in greenstick fractures. As a result it can be difficult to distinguish a soft-tissue injury like a bad bruise or joint sprain from a greenstick fracture.
X-rays will reveal most greenstick fractures, however it may be necessary in some cases that your doctor may order an ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT) scan for better viewing as greenstick fractures can sometimes be difficult to view on X ray. Also to help with diagnosis your doctor may require to perform an X-ray of the uninjured limb, as well for comparison purposes.

Greenstick Fracture Treatment

As for the majority of broken bones, incomplete breaks like a greenstick fracture, require immobilization. Often a greenstick fracture must also be bent back into the correct position (referred to as “reduction”). Reduction of the fracture enables the bone to grow back properly and following reduction the area is immobilised 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 because they occur in the slower growing part of the bone. Happening in the middle shaft of the bodies long bones, hence immobilisation can frequently be required for 6-8 weeks following reduction to allow the bone to grow back strongly together.

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 build 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.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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