Fractures, Sprains, and Strains - Treatment

The treatment of fractures depends on many factors, such as the seriousness of the injury, the patient's age, and his or her general health. In the case of serious fractures, a number of actions may be necessary. For example, patients with open fractures may need to have bleeding brought under control. They may also need antibiotics to protect against infection.

The fundamental goal in treating fractures is to restore a broken bone to its original position, if necessary, and then immobilize it. Bones begin to grow back soon after they are broken so this should be done by a trained medical person as soon as possible. In many cases, immobilization is the only treatment needed for a fracture. If there is displacement, the bone is first forced into the correct position and then held in place with a splint, cast, or brace. Once restored to its original position and held in place, the bone will re-grow to its former shape.

Getting the bone into its correct position is called fracture reduction. It can be done without breaking the skin or the doctor may need to perform surgery to realign the bones. Reduction done without breaking the skin is called a closed reduction and can be performed by a doctor with the patient under anesthetic. The doctor can move the bone parts around until they are back in their correct position. Some form of immobilization can then be applied.

Realigning the bones is sometimes difficult. The fractures may be complicated or serious enough to require an open reduction, or surgery, to reset the bones. The damaged area is cut open and the bones placed in their proper alignment. Devices such as plates, nails, screws, and rods may be used to hold the bones in this alignment while they heal. When healing is complete, the physician may or may not elect to remove these devices.

Traction is sometimes used to treat fractures. Traction involves the use of heavy weights to pull on a damaged bone. It forces the broken bone to line up correctly, the way it looked before the break. The traction may be necessary until the bone has grown back in its normal and correct position.

Treatment of Sprains and Strains

Grade I sprains and mild strains can be treated at home. Basic first aid for sprains consists of a system known as RICE. This term stands for four steps:

  • R est
  • I ce for forty-eight hours
  • C ompression, such as wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage
  • E levation, or raising the sprained area above the heart

Over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, can be taken to relieve pain. Children should avoid aspirin, however, as it can cause Reye's syndrome (see Reye's syndrome entry).

People with grade II and grade III sprains should also follow the steps in RICE. They usually need additional treatment, however. In the case of sprains of the ankle or knee, they may need to stay off their feet by staying in bed or using crutches. Physical therapy or home exercises may be needed to restore normal joint function.

Grade III sprains usually require immobilization in a cast. The cast must stay on until the sprain heals, usually for several weeks. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed to repair torn ligaments. Physical therapy is often required after surgery.

Alternative Treatment

Calcium supplements are often recommended to help prevent fractures. The body uses calcium to build bones. Some physical therapists may recommend electrostimulation to treat a fracture. In electrostimulation, a small electrical current is passed through needles inserted near the damaged site. The electrical current is thought to increase the speed with which bones heal.

Two homeopathic remedies recommended for fractures are Arnica (pronounced AHR-nih-kuh) and Symphytum (pronounced SIM-fih-tum). These remedies are thought by some practitioners to increase the rate at which bones heal. Hydrotherapy is also recommended for fractures in the legs and arms. Warm water may increase the rate of circulation in the area and, thereby, the rate of healing.

Alternative treatments for sprains and strains may include the use of nutritional supplements, such as vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Certain herbs are recommended to reduce inflammation in a damaged area. These herbs include bromelain, turmeric, Arnica, Ruta, and Rhus toxicodendron.

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