Health Question

How do I know if I've broken a bone?

Broken bones can happen after an accident like a fall, or by being hit by an object.

The 3 most common signs of a broken bone (also known as a fracture) are:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • deformity

However, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether a bone is broken if it is not out of its normal position.

If you've broken a bone:

  • you may hear or feel a snap or a grinding noise as the injury happens
  • there may be swelling, bruising or tenderness around the injured area
  • you may feel pain when you put weight on the injury, touch it, press it, or move it
  • the injured part may look deformed – in severe breaks, the broken bone may be poking through the skin

You may also feel faint, dizzy or sick as a result of the shock of breaking a bone.

If the break is small or it's just a crack, you may not feel much pain or even realise that you've broken a bone.

Always call your local emergency services for very severe suspected breaks, such as a broken neck or back

The broken bone must be properly aligned and held in place, often with a plaster cast, so it heals in the correct position.

If you do not receive the correct treatment, you could develop a serious infection or a permanent deformity. You may also have long-term problems with your joints.

It's important not to eat or drink anything if you think you've broken a bone, as you may need a general anaesthetic to allow doctors to realign it.

Older people and those with osteoporosis should be particularly careful, as their bones are weaker and may break more easily.

Further information