CPR First Aid

Should People Be Icing Broken Bones?

Should People Be Icing Broken Bones

Bones are very hard. It would take a lot for it to break or fracture. Despite that, throughout a person’s life, sprains and fractured bones are a very common occurrence. 

When a bone breaks, it is best to seek urgent care from a healthcare provider or the St John Ambulance.

But some also suggest putting ice or a warm compress on the injured area. Until now, people still debate which of these two is a better solution.

In this article, we’ll be examining whether or not people should be icing fractures (broken bones).

What Happens When You Chip a Bone?

We often hear the saying that bones can be chipped. What exactly does that mean? Chipping a bone is also referred to as an avulsion fracture, one of many types of fractures. When this type of fracture happens, a bone attached to either a ligament or tendon is pulled away from the main part of the bone. 

This usually happens when the bone goes one way and the ligament or tendon goes another way. As such, we see it often in sports when people change directions quickly. Bones most at risk include those in the elbow, feet, ankle, knee, fingers, and spine. 

Can Bones Grow Back?

An avulsion fracture is just one type. There are many more types that all change depending on various circumstances. With all of these types of broken bones and fractures, the question now is, do bones grow back? 

Bones do have an amazing regenerative ability, especially in children. Within just a few weeks, bones start to grow. Depending on the type of break and several other factors, full healing takes additional time to occur.

What Helps Broken Bones Heal Faster?

Healing of broken bones is dependent on several factors. Medical professionals will typically align all of the broken bone fragments. Afterwards, they will immobilize the site to provide stability and support. Both of these are the foundation for healing broken bones. They must be done correctly and well. 

This does not take any onus out of the patient with the broken bones though. Certain lifestyle choices must be done to promote healthier and faster bone healing.

Immobilization Orders

For starters, the immobilization orders from your doctor must be taken seriously. Doctors might give orders not to place any weight on the broken bone for a few weeks. While it sounds simple, most people have a hard time following this. The consequence is slower healing. 

Follow a Good Diet

Next is eating a healthy diet. Following a healthy diet, specifically one that is rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein, will improve the bone healing process overall. For older individuals though, a diet may not be enough for all the vitamins and minerals that will facilitate the healing process. In this case, they may need to take supplements to bridge the deficiencies. 

Stop Smoking

The final thing that fracture patients can do is to refrain from smoking. Smoking hinders the cells that eventually create new bones.

Types of Broken Bones or Fractures

The answer to the question we have is largely dependent on several factors. The first factor is the type of broken bone or fracture that people have. Many different types vary depending on many factors. Let’s check these different types out.

The answer to the question we have is largely dependent on several factors. The first factor is the type of broken bone or fracture that people have. Many different types vary depending on many factors. Let’s check these different types out.

Closed

A closed fracture is also commonly referred to as a simple fracture. This type of fracture is when the bone has broken, but the skin has not which still needs medical help. In other words, there is no open wound. This type of fracture is very common in children and the common causes are high activity levels and falls. It is also common in car accidents and people with osteoporosis.

Open

An open or compound fracture is the opposite of a closed fracture. In this type of fracture, not only has the bone been broken, but there is an open wound where the bone has pierced through the skin. These types of fractures are much more serious than closed fractures as they put the person at risk of infection so these require immediate medical attention.

Displaced

A displaced fracture occurs when the bone has broken and is no longer in its natural alignment. The bone may be protruding from the skin or at an awkward angle. This type of fracture is serious as it can damage surrounding tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. This type requires the medical advice of healthcare professionals in Australia.

Partial

A partial fracture is a break that only affects a part of the bone. These fractures are not as serious as complete fractures where the bone has been completely broken.

Stress

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that occur due to repetitive stress or overuse. These fractures are common in athletes who participate in high-impact sports such as running, basketball, and football who incur a sports injury.

Overview of Fractures – Different Healing Stages

Once a person has determined what type of fracture they have, it is important to understand the different stages of healing that the bone will go through. There are three main stages: acute inflammation, soft callus formation, and hard callus formation.

These stages also inform a person whether icing broken bones is good or not.

Once a person has determined what type of fracture they have, it is important to understand the different stages of healing that the bone will go through. There are three main stages: acute inflammation, soft callus formation, and hard callus formation.

Acute Inflammation

This is the first stage of healing and typically lasts for about 3-5 days after the injury. During this stage, the blood vessels around the broken bone are damaged and leak blood. This blood helps to clean out any debris around the area and brings in immune cells to help fight off infection. The blood also helps to form a clot which will eventually harden and stabilize the broken bone.

Soft Callus Formation

The next stage of healing is when a soft callus starts to form. This happens about 2-3 weeks after the initial injury. During this stage, the bone begins to grow back together. However, the bone that is growing is not as strong as the original bone.

Hard Callus Formation

The final stage of healing is when a hard callus starts to form. This happens about 4-8 weeks after the initial injury. During this stage, the bone continues to grow back together and gets stronger and harder.

Should People Be Icing Broken Bones?

Now that we know more about fractures and the different stages of healing, let’s answer the question: should people put an ice pack on broken bones? Icing broken bones can be beneficial for several reasons.

Constricts Blood Vessels

One of the main benefits of applying ice through a plastic bag is that it constricts blood vessels. This is important because, as we discussed before when blood vessels are damaged, they leak blood. This can cause swelling, pain, and inflammation. Icing helps to constrict the blood vessels and reduce the amount of leakage.

Reduces Swelling

Another benefit of icing an injured part is that it reduces swelling. Swelling occurs when fluid accumulates around the broken bone. Icing helps to reduce the amount of fluid that accumulates and decreases swelling.

Reduces Pain

Icing also helps to reduce pain. When you have a broken bone, the nerves around the area are damaged and send signals of pain to your brain. Icing helps to reduce the number of pain signals that are sent to your brain and can help you feel more comfortable.

While ice introduces many benefits, it should only be used for specific situations.

First Aid for Broken Bones Before Using Ice or Heat?

Remember to do the following steps before applying ice or heat.

  1. Stop any bleeding by applying pressure to the wound
  2. Immobilise the injured area with a splint

Then, the application of ice or heat may be done. It’s important to prepare treatment for shock and CPR in case a casualty feels faint or becomes unresponsive.

When Can We Use Ice For Broken Bones?

The First Two Healing Stages

Ice is best used in the first two healing stages of fractures. These are the acute inflammation and soft callus formation stages.

When bone starts to repair, it creates a healthy area of swelling around the broken area. This is due to the blood clots that start to form.

While the swelling is healthy, it may still be a painful nuisance to the person. The ice will help control the swelling and keep it down.

Never Directly On Skin

Another thing to remember is that ice should never be applied directly to the skin. The cold temperatures may be harmful to the skin or underlying tissues. It could also create ice crystals within the skin and hamper any healing blood flow. Finally, if the ice were too cold, it could result in dry ice burns.

Instead, wrap the ice in a towel or some cloth before putting it over the broken area.

Not With Open Fractures

Open fractures occur when the bone punctures the skin and is showing out of the body. In these cases, it is best to not use ice. The area will be constantly bleeding from the puncture wound.

The bleeding must be stopped and the area immobilized. In addition, placing the ice around the open fracture area may cause more pain and invite infections.

What About Hot or Warm Compresses?

Warm or Hot compresses are an alternative to icing. As opposed to the ice for broken bones, others suggest to use heat during the hard callus formation stage.

They may provide some of the same benefits but with a few key differences.

Relaxes Muscles

One benefit of hot compresses to an injury site is that they help to relax muscles. This is due to the heat from the compress which causes the muscles to loosen up and feel more relaxed. Icing, on the other hand, can cause muscles to tighten up and feel stiffer.

Improves Blood Circulation

Another benefit of hot compresses to the fracture site is that they improve blood circulation. This is important because it helps to bring nutrients and oxygen to the broken bone. It also helps to remove waste products from the area. Icing, on the other hand, can constrict blood vessels and reduce blood circulation

Reduces Pain

Hot compresses on the affected area can also help to reduce pain. The heat from the compress helps to block pain signals from reaching the brain.

Ice and Heat

As we have seen, icing broken bones brings many benefits. The same can be said for heat and hot compresses. The key is understanding when it is best to use each of them.

Together, heat and ice for broken bones can help with fracture recovery. However, it is still best to seek medical care and/or orthopedic checkups for x-rays, proper treatment of bone healing, and correct health information.

As we have seen, icing broken bones brings many benefits. The same can be said for heat and hot compresses. The key is understanding when it is best to use each of them.

With broken bones being as common as they are, it is best to understand how to properly treat them or care for a victim with the right first aid practices.

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