How is a Bone Fracture Diagnosed?


At NewYork-Presbyterian, our orthopedic specialists diagnose a broken bone or bone fracture through an initial physical examination followed by one or more imaging tests. These imaging tests can help determine the exact type of bone fracture you have and what treatment you’ll need for your injury.

  • X-ray
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound (sonography)

An artistic depiction of different degree of bone fractures


How is a Bone Fracture Treated?


Most broken bones or fractures are treated with a cast, which wraps the break with a hard protective covering, or a splint for smaller fractures. Both support devices immobilize the bone and provide support while the bone heals. 

Depending on the type of bone fracture, one of the following treatments may be considered:


  • Topical pain medicines such as creams or gels
  • Oral analgesics, including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to relieve pain

Therapy and other treatments

  • Supportive devices, including braces, casts, or splints
  • Local modalities, including intermittent hot and cold packs to reduce swelling and pain
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the fracture and increase flexibility to promote healing
  • Occupational therapy to help determine better ways to achieve everyday tasks without putting extra stress on the fractured area
  • Exercise programs to strengthen bones and muscles surrounding the fracture
  • Healthy diet and nutrition programs to increase bone and muscle strength

Nonsurgical treatment

  • Traction is a method used to treat broken bones or fractures in the lower body. This allows force to be applied to the bone while it heals with less risk of damaging the soft tissue surrounding the broken bone.

Surgical treatment

  • Certain types of fractures, such as an open fracture, complete fracture, or displaced fracture, may require surgery to stabilize the bones or repair them. This may involve using stainless steel screws, plates, fixators, or frames to stabilize and hold the bone in place. 
  • Whenever possible, minimally-invasive procedures are used to promote quicker healing and less recovery time



In most cases, a fracture will heal in six to eight weeks. This timeframe will vary depending on the type of fracture combined with age and other medical conditions that could affect bone health, such as osteoporosis. More severe fractures may take three months or longer to heal. It is essential to understand that a fracture can be healed enough not to require further immobilization, but regaining 100% strength could take months.

As with any medical condition or injury, some complications could arise, including:

  • Blood clots could form and move through the body
  • Cast-wearing can cause pressure ulcers or sores and stiffness in the joints
  • Compartment syndrome, or bleeding and swelling in the muscles surrounding the fracture
  • Hemarthrosis, or bleeding into the joint or fracture that causes it to swell

Although pain is both physical and psychological, there are two primary reasons fractures hurt worse at night: 

  • During the night, there is a drop in cortisol (a stress hormone) that has an anti-inflammatory response. This lack of inflammation causes pain to accelerate at night. 
  • During the day, most people are more active, which keeps the synovial fluid flowing to the fracture. Synovial fluid is a liquid in all bone joints that helps lubricate the joint with movement and reduces swelling. At night, with less activity, movement of the synovial fluid is limited, which leads to pain and swelling.
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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Bone Fracture Treatment

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of a bone fracture, the orthopedic specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment at a location near you.