Spiral Fractures

There are many types of fractures in medicine; greenstick, traverse, oblique, compression, comminuted, segmental and spiral to name a few. Each one has its own meaning. A greenstick is an incomplete fracture where the bone is broken, but not completely separated. Transverse means the break is in a straight line across the bone. Oblique differs from transverse because it flows diagonally across the bone. A compression fracture involves the ‘crushing’ of the broken bone which results in the bone being wider or flatter in appearance. Comminuted is in three or more pieces with fragments present at the fracture site. Segmental fractures the same bone in 2 places to create a ‘floating’ segment of the bone. And, a spiral fracture means a long bone is broken by a twisting force. Of course, they all have one thing in common…they are all painful.

Fractures normally occur due to blunt force trauma to the bone. If a bone cannot absorb the force it has no choice but to break. Bones are at their weakest when they are twisted, so many fractures occur due to falls, trauma, a direct blow or kick to the body.

If you have experienced a broken bone it does not take long to relive the moment in your head when returning to that time and place in conversation or thought. The details and the pain seem to come rushing back in an instant. It usually takes a combination of surgery, rest, and physical therapy to recover from spiral fractures. A spiral fracture is usually treated right away with surgery. After the surgery, a cast may be worn.

Most spiral fractures involve the long bones of the legs such as the femur, tibia and fibula, but can also include the long bones of the arm including the humerus, ulna and radius. Someone diagnosed with a spiral fracture has endured a serious injury and is subject to risk and complications in comparison to a baseline fracture.

To complicate matters, if a long bone is broken on an angle there can often be separation which can cause compromised alignment or rough/uneven edges. Bones at an angle are difficult to align and restore.

Imagine a slinky that is twisted and a surgeon working to make it straight. Repair of a spiral fracture is difficult and takes patience in the operating room. Common causes of spiral fractures include: skiing or snowboarding injuries (when the leg is twisted by being stuck in a boot); soccer collisions due to two players running into one another and becoming entangled/twisted; football tackles or collisions that include one player being held/restrained by another while the other tries to twist free for additional yards; wrestling which involves wrestlers entwined and jockeying for position to gain points; motor vehicle/motorcycle/bicycle accidents; falling after trying to compensate for a loss in balance and repositioning an arm or a leg; physical violence and child abuse; machinery accidents and/or simply falling down stairs.

If you believe you have experienced a fracture, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Untreated fractures can be life-threatening and significant health conditions can arise if not treated properly. Issues include sepsis, blood clots, compartment syndrome, blood vessel, muscle/nerve damage, infection and more. Never self-diagnosis or dismiss an injury. Reach out to an orthopedic specialist for an examination and diagnosis.

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