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Broken bones, which medical professionals call fractures, can occur for a wide range of reasons. Some people, particularly those at or past retirement age, could break a bone by slipping and falling. Broken bones can also occur in automobile accidents, exercise or sporting incidents and many other kinds of traumatic accidents.

Simple fractures involve a single break in the bone, while compound fractures involve a broken bone ripping the skin, becoming exposed to the air and infection. People can also experience complex fractures, such as spiral fractures, where a bone breaks into many pieces. Modern medicine is capable of rebuilding and reinforcing bones in a variety of break scenarios, although some require surgery.

In general, broken bones are painful, if treatable, conditions that affect tens of thousands of people every year. Most people who break a bone will fully recover. However, in some cases, the consequences of a fracture can be more serious.

Broken bones in children can affect later growth

Children who are still growing have unique concerns after a broken bone or fracture. Specifically, the growth plate that allows their body to continue to stretch and expand as they age into adulthood can wind up damaged after a bad fracture. Injury to the growth plate can affect how your child continues to grow and develop. It can also drastically increase the overall cost of treatment for a fracture.

Older adults can experience secondary complications

Broken bones can be a source of pain and stress, which humans don’t always manage well. The older someone is, the greater the potential for secondary consequences from a broken bone, such as severe atrophy of muscle, secondary infections due to pressure sores and generalized weakness or lack of energy.

Older adults who break bones, particularly if they wind up confined to bed, need care for their bodies and minds during their recovery to help ensure the best prognosis.

Traumatic injuries like fractures can lead to permanent nerve injury

Complex regional pain syndrome, which used to go under the name reflex sympathetic dystrophy, is a rare but noteworthy consequence of traumatic injury. Sometimes, when the body attempts to heal itself, the result is difficulty in nerve communication. One of the hallmarks of CRPS is an increase in pain symptoms when the injury itself is almost healed. Those with CRPS may experience ongoing pain, as well as a tingling or burning sensation in the affected area, for the rest of their life.

Other symptoms of CRPS include discoloration of the skin, nails or hair of the affected area, a difference in temperature in that limb or extremity when compared with the rest of the body, a reduction in strength or range of motion, and inexplicable pain that does not go away when the injury heals. CRPS can be a lifelong disability that leaves people unable to work or even care for themselves.