Can You Have a Fracture Without Knowing It?

When you think of a broken bone, you probably picture an obvious fracture with visible deformities and a lot of pain. But some broken bones can be sneaky. Unfortunately, hidden fractures can cause multiple problems, including delayed treatment and potential complications. 

Coastal Ortho has four locations in Torrance and El Segundo, California, to diagnose and treat fractures you didn’t know you had. Our skilled team of orthopedic experts specializes in fractures of all types, especially the stealthy ones that sneak up on you. 

Here, we dive into the world of hidden fractures, signs you may have one, and what you can do about it. 

Is it a bone bruise or a fracture?

When you fall or meet an object with force, the impact can damage the blood vessels under your skin and in your muscle tissue, causing the formation of a bruise. The same can happen to your bones.

Trauma, compression, stress, and disease can lead to multiple tiny cracks that cause blood to leak into the surrounding tissue. When blood pools below the hard outer shell of your bone, we call it a “bone bruise” or a “bone contusion.” 

The symptoms of bone bruises and mild fractures are similar:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Limited mobility

However, bone bruises often form a hard lump under the skin, and bone fractures can cause numbness and tingling. But those differences alone can’t confirm a diagnosis. For that, you’ll need professional imaging tests.

While X-rays clearly show bone fractures, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reveals bone bruises. 

Hidden fractures: Unseen but significant

You can easily identify a compound (open) fracture that breaks through your skin, and if you’ve been in a car accident or other traumatic event, you can reasonably suspect a broken bone. But your bones can break or crack slightly without an obvious reason. 

Osteoporosis, a disease that robs your bone density and makes it more porous, makes you susceptible to fractures from even mild pressure, like coughing, sneezing, or bumping into furniture.

Overusing your limbs can also lead to hidden bone breaks. The most common types of hard-to-detect bone fractures are:

Hairline fractures

Hairline fractures are small, thin cracks that typically occur in weight-bearing bones like your legs, ankles, and feet. 

Compression fractures

Although osteoporosis is the most common culprit behind compression fractures, you can also get one from trauma or tumors. They usually affect the spinal bones (vertebrae). 

Stress fractures

You don’t have to experience a severe accident to break a bone — cumulative trauma can crack your bones, too. Athletes and others who perform repetitive movements often sustain stress fractures without knowing it.

Don’t ignore a suspected bone fracture

If you suspect a bone fracture or bone bruise, don’t ignore it. Some hidden bone injuries can be difficult to heal, causing long-term problems, some can lead to blood clots, and the lack of blood flow to the area could result in bone death

Our Coastal Ortho specialists can quickly diagnose your bone problem and begin treatment that will foster proper bone healing and help you avoid the complications of undetected bone fractures.

Call any of our four Coastal Ortho locations in Torrance and El Segundo today, or use our online appointment request form to schedule a visit any time.