Acute Fractures, Subacute Fractures and Stress Fractures

Home » Acute Fractures, Subacute Fractures and Stress Fractures
March 09, 2015
Edward Smith

Acute Fracture Causes

You’ve had pain. Terrible pain. Finally, you get your MRI, you waited for the results and they are finally ready. You have the results.  The results are in and you have a fracture. Working in personal injury law we often have clients who have a fracture and do not even realize it. Persistent pain long after the muscle and tissues should have healed is usually a telltale sign. Many people obtain their MRI report and will see one of the following things listed under the heading “Impression”: Acute Fracture, Subacute Fracture, or Stress Fracture. What’s the difference? An acute fracture will often include an emergency room visit the day the trauma occurred and are clearly evident on an x-ray.

Subacute Fracture Causes

A subacute fracture usually means that the patient had pain for some time.  Usually, if a patient receives this diagnosis, the fracture would have occurred weeks or months prior and is now in the healing stage. The area of the fracture will usually be painful for several weeks.  In many cases, the patient was seen by their primary care physician the day after the trauma and the doctor may have told them to expect pain for a few weeks or months. If the person returned to the doctor, he or she may have received a referral for physical therapy or chiropractic care. While related soft tissue symptoms may have improved, the area of bone would have remained painful and sensitive.  At that point, the physician may have ordered an x-ray or MRI. Given that it would be weeks or months post-trauma, the imaging would reveal a fracture that is already in the healing process.  While the bone and surrounding tissues have been healing, the pain will be present for some time until the fracture has healed.

Stress Fracture Causes

Stress fractures primarily occur in the lower extremities – typically the feet or legs.  They may occur due to impact activity and/or repetitive activities.  Certain athletes are prone to stress fractures.  Gymnasts, runners, and those involved in track and field may suffer a stress fracture.  These activities can cause small cracks in the bones due to the bones absorbing force repeatedly. Stress fractures and fractures that are healing will be painful with weight-bearing.

Fracture Pain Management

Pain may also exist for reasons other than the fractured bone itself.  A person with a fracture will initially make every effort to avoid using that part of their injured body.  When the person begins to use that body part again, they will experience pain. The muscles surrounding the injured area may be ‘stiff’ due to disuse.  The stiffness may affect mobility. Depending on where the fracture occurred, physical therapy may be ordered afterward to help the muscles surrounding the injured area become ‘pliable’ again.  Once the muscles surrounding the fractured bone become stronger and able to tolerate more movement, the pain level will decrease.

When a bone is broken, acute pain is felt immediately. As the soft tissues and bone begin to heal, the continued pain is referred to as sub-acute. Research by Osteoporosis Canada indicates that this occurs due to the lack of movement required in order for the bone to knit back together. There may also be some inflammation in the soft tissues surrounding the fracture that results in muscle stiffness.

Watch YouTube Video: Fracture Care: Total Bone Repair. This video discusses various approaches and treatment options for bone fractures.

Sacramento Bone Fracture Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Bone Fracture Lawyer. If you have been injured in a car wreck or other traumatic incident, call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.  I have been working with Californians to help them get back on their feet since 1982.

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