External force impacts such as falls or blows can lead to bone fractures. In areas close to the joints, sudden movements beyond the joint's normal radius that can cause the joint to become dislocated may also be a cause.
The most common example is twisting of the ankle, which can result in an ankle fracture. If fractures occur in the joints or bones close to the joints, there is often accompanying injury to the cartilage, tendons or ligaments.
With a fracture, pain and swelling are experienced in the affected area. The joint can no longer be moved or subjected to weight bearing as it normally is. Visible deformities are not uncommon. The intensity of the pain does not always indicate a fracture, however. In many cases, sprains can be associated with even more severe symptoms.
In the case of open fractures, in which an open skin injury occurs over the fracture site, there is a high risk of infection from bacteria which can enter via the wound. These must be treated immediately.
Regardless of which treatment method is used, the goal is always to rest the affected part of the body so that the bones can knit back together again properly. In cases of simple, undisplaced fractures, conservative treatment with plaster of Paris or a synthetic dressing is usually sufficient.
Displaced fractures generally require surgical treatment. Where fractures occur close to the joints in particular, physiotherapy must be initiated as soon as possible so that the joint does not stiffen up.