A fracture is a complete or incomplete break in a bone. Bones are rigid, but they do bend or "give" somewhat when an outside force is applied. However, if the force is too great, the bones may break/fracture. The severity of a fracture usually depends on the force that caused the break. If the bone's breaking point has been exceeded only slightly, then the bone may crack rather than break all the way through. If the force is extreme the bone may shatter.
If you feel you have sustained a fracture, you need to be seen either in the ER or in your physician's office. At this time, the physician will do a careful examination to assess your overall condition, as well as the extent of the injury in order to devise a treatment plan.
The most common way to evaluate a fracture is with x-rays, which provide clear images of bone to verify the diagnosis and treatment option best – surgical or non-surgical.
A fiberglass (or plaster) cast is the most common type of fracture treatment, because most broken bones can heal successfully once they have been repositioned and a cast has been applied to keep the broken ends in proper position while they heal. However, surgery is required for more complex fractures where bone fragments need to be manually repositioned into their normal alignment and then held together with surgical screws or by attaching metal plates to the outer surface of the bone.