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Greenstick fractures

A greenstick fracture occurs when a bone bends and cracks, instead of breaking completely into separate pieces. This type of broken bone most commonly occurs in children because their bones are softer and more flexible than are the bones of adults.

In some cases, a greenstick fracture can be difficult to diagnose because there may not be much pain or swelling and the child is using the limb and has full motion. Mild greenstick fractures sometimes are thought to be sprains.

Even mild greenstick fractures are usually immobilized in a cast. In addition to holding the cracked pieces of the bone together so they can heal, a cast can help prevent the bone from breaking all the way through if the child falls on it again.

Symptoms Causes Prevention

The intense pain, swelling and obvious deformity typical of broken bones may be absent or minimal in mild greenstick fractures. Other greenstick fractures may be easily diagnosed because the arm or leg is deformed and there is significant swelling.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor if your child has persistent pain in an injured limb. Seek immediate medical attention if a child is unable to bear weight or if there is obvious pain, deformity and swelling.

Childhood fractures most commonly occur with a fall. Arm fractures are more common than leg fractures, since the usual reaction is to throw out your arms when you start to fall.

Here are some tips to reduce your child's risk of greenstick fractures:

  • Encourage regular exercise, which builds strong bones.
  • Ensure that your child always wears safety gear for sports.
  • Use car seats and seat belts at every age.
  • Provide adequate calcium in your child's diet. Check with your doctor to see how much calcium your child needs, because the amount varies with age.
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