Is a Fracture the Same as a Break?

A fracture and a broken bone are the same injury. To your physician, these words can be used interchangeably.

While there are many types of fractures, or broken bones, there are other ways to describe fractures that give more specific meaning to the problem.

This article explains why bones break and how they are treated. It also includes a few ways you may be able to help speed up the healing process.

Broken arm
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Why Bones Break

A bone breaks when the energy it is forced to absorb is stronger than the bone itself. This means that for the bone to break, at least one of three things likely occurred:

  • Too much energy was applied to the bone all at once
  • Too much energy was placed on the bone over a long period of time
  • The bone was not strong enough to support the energy applied to it

Too Much Energy

This means that the amount of energy being absorbed by the bone exceeds the strength of the bone. Common reasons for these types of fractures include falls, automobile accidents, and sports injuries.

Too Much Repetitive Stress

These injuries, also called stress fractures, occur not as the result of a single amount of force applied to the bone, but rather repeated stress to the bone—ultimately causing it to fail.

Much like you can bend a paperclip back and forth a few times and eventually it will snap, the same can happen with a bone. Stress fractures are often seen in people like long-distance runners and military recruits.

Bone Weakening

Some fractures occur not because of too much energy or too much stress, but because the bone has been weakened. These types of fractures (that occur in the setting of bone that has been weakened by an underlying condition) are called pathologic fractures.

The most common pathology that weakens bone is osteoporosis, or bone thinning. Other causes of pathologic fractures include tumors, infections, and other bone disorders.


Once a fracture has been identified, the proper treatment must be undertaken.

Such treatment depends on a number of factors, including the type of fracture, the location of the injury, and the patient's individual needs.

Treatments that are sometimes used for people who have sustained a fracture include casting, splinting, or surgery.

Casting or Splinting

Most broken bones will heal with protection and immobilization. The best way to protect or immobilize a broken bone will vary depending on the bone that was injured. In many cases, a cast or a splint will be used to protect the injured bone and prevent it from moving.

In some situations, the bone must first be reset (a procedure called a fracture reduction) if the bone is not aligned in its proper position. In this case, the individual with the fracture is given some type of anesthesia and the bone is then repositioned by the healthcare provider. It is then held in place with a cast or a splint.


Surgery is used most often when the bone cannot be held in a proper position. Typically, some type of implant can be used to properly hold together the repositioned bone. These implants may include plates and screws, metal pins, or rods.

Healing Bones Quickly

Broken bones may heal at different rates, and sometimes activity can even be resumed if the bone is not fully healed. Therefore, answering the question "how long does it take bone to heal?" can be challenging.

The truth is, it depends. Bone healing is dependent on a number of factors, some of which you can control and others that are the result of the injury and your own body.

If you want to do everything you can to heal as quickly as possible, you should follow your healthcare provider's treatment recommendations carefully, eat a healthy diet, and avoid tobacco use entirely.

A Word From Verywell

Patients are often surprised to learn that the words fracture and break are used so interchangeably. However, this should not imply that all fractures are the same. In fact, there is essentially an unlimited number of different types of fractures, and each one may have specific circumstances that alter the recommended treatment.

That's why the treatment of your fracture may be different from someone else's, even when it's the same bone that is injured. Once you have been diagnosed with a fractured bone, be sure you have a treatment plan that is clearly explained so you can have the best possible recovery from your injury.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Fonseca H, Moreira-Gonçalves D, Coriolano HJ, Duarte JA. Bone quality: The determinants of bone strength and fragility. Sports Med. 2014 Jan;44(1):37-53. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0100-7

  2. Columbia Neurosurgery. Pathologic fracture.

  3. Stewart SK. Fracture non-union: A review of clinical challenges and future research needs. Malays Orthop J. 2019 Jul;13(2):1-10. doi:10.5704/MOJ.1907.001

  4. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. OrthoInfo. Internal fixation for fractures.

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.