Broken Bone or Fracture?

Tidewater Physical Therapist Working With Patient

Physical Therapy’s Role in Healing Broken Bones & Fractures

There’s not as much difference as you think.

Think about it. Have you heard a doctor use the term BROKEN BONE in recent years, especially when talking with other physicians or describing what happened to you or your child after their evaluation?

We’re guessing you’ve heard them say fracture. Many doctors don’t even use the words “broken bone” when talking to other doctors as it is too general.

Semantics? Perhaps. There is a common misconception, however, that fractures are less severe than a broken bone. But a broken bone is a broken bone.


A broken bone occurs any time that more pressure is applied to the bone than it can stand.

Often, people suffer from a break following a fall, direct blow, degeneration of the bone due to a disease such as osteoporosis, or, in the case of stress fractures, repetitive forces that happen during physical activity.


There are many different kinds of fractures. While they don’t normally use the term “broken bone,” doctors are likely to talk about the various kinds of fracture they’ve diagnosed.

First off, the doctor will determine if the fracture is open (the bone has pierced the skin) or closed (the bone has not pierced the skin).

Then, the doctor will determine what kind of fracture it is:

•    Transverse fractures are fractures that occur at a right angle to the bone, while oblique fractures occur at an angle other than 90.
•    Oblique fractures are when the break is at a diagonal angle to the bone.
•    Spiral fractures are when the break spirals around the bone, which is common in twisting injuries.
•    Compression fractures happen when the bone is crushed.
•    Greenstick fractures occur when the bone bends and doesn’t completely break. Children, with their softer bones, are the most likely to suffer from this kind of fracture.
•    Stress fractures are multiple, tiny cracks in the bone that result from repetitive application of force, such as jumping or running.


Fractures don’t just cause injury to the bone itself. Broken bones can also result in a significant weakening of the muscles surrounding the affected bone since it often has to be immobilized in a cast for a long period of time.

No matter what the circumstance of your broken bone, physical activity, and physical therapy, has been shown to help recovery time.

In fact, patients from athletes at the peak of their form to older adults suffering from osteoporosis have found that physical therapy helps speed their recovery.

Why? Physical therapists work with patients to design exercise plans that help strengthen those weakened muscles in a way that won’t cause further injury. These plans often include a set of exercises you can do at home to help strengthen the bone and surrounding muscles.

The exercises will vary depending on which bone you fractured and will be focused on building strength and increasing flexibility. For example, if you fractured your wrist, your physical therapist may have you rest your arm on a table with your hand hanging over the side and then slowly raise and lower your hand using your wrist muscles.

Specialized therapies exists for rehabilitating from hand fractures, too, which is why Tidewater Physical Therapy is pleased to feature certified hand therapists throughout our clinics.

There are also rehabilitation options utilizing aquatic therapy. This kind of therapy takes place in a specially designed therapy pool that’s been heated and outfitted with specialty equipment – think underwater treadmills.

Exercising in the pool makes it seem as if you are exercising weightless, which relieves stress on the affected bone while allowing you build strength and increase flexibility in the surrounding tissues.


As in all things, prevention is key.

Accidents happen and not all broken bones can be prevented, but staying active in the normal course of your day can lower your risk for broken bones.

Bone is a living tissue that can be made stronger with exercise.

Exercising for bone health becomes especially important the older you get since bone mass peaks in your twenties and, after that, we’re all at risk for bone density loss.

The best kind of exercises for bone health – weight-bearing exercises such as weight lifting, walking, jogging or dancing.

Exercise also helps improve balance and stability, which are key to preventing the kinds of falls that can lead to broken bones….and fractures.


Find a Tidewater Physical Therapy clinic near you and make your own appointment. Or just ask to speak to a therapist. We’re happy to help you understand more about fractures and the role of physical therapy in preventing them from happening in the first place and how to recover from them following repair.