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View Full Version : Description of broken bone - does this sound right?



Ravenlocks
05-16-2008, 06:05 AM
I've been lucky enough never to have a broken leg, so I'm not sure if I'm describing it adequately. The character has just fallen in the woods.

"Pain shot up his leg, a sharp pain of torn muscles and then a numbness, perhaps a sign of broken bone."

Tsu Dho Nimh
05-16-2008, 06:33 AM
I have it on good authority, from my roomate, that you hear the bone snap, simultaneous with the pain.

His thoughts as he landed were "So that's what it sounds like" He's also a ski patroller - we frequently have patients tell us "I heard it break when I landed".

The breaking bone actually saves the ligaments and muscles from damage ... something has to give, and sometimes it's the bone.

Soccer Mom
05-16-2008, 06:36 AM
I've broken several bones and each time it wasn't "perhaps a sign of broken bone" it was


Aaaaaah! Broken!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!


The one time I broke something and didn't know it immediately was when I rolled an ankle. I was blinding pain for a minute and then it faded to a dull ache. I was able to walk on it and I assumed it was just sprained, not really broken. Heh. I was wrong.

ETA: Cross posted with Tsu, and yes, for almost all the bones, I heard the break as well as felt it.

Ravenlocks
05-16-2008, 07:25 AM
How about if I change it to "Pain shot up his leg, and he heard the snap of bone"? Does that sound closer? It also takes the muscles out of the equation.

Appalachian Writer
05-16-2008, 08:21 AM
How about if I change it to "Pain shot up his leg, and he heard the snap of bone"? Does that sound closer? It also takes the muscles out of the equation.

The last time I broke my leg, I heard the snap (too light, more like a crack)..no question..then there's the simulataneous, gut-wrenching pain, and like soccer mom says, it sort of weakens after a minute or two. But it's a trick. A little while later, trying to put weight on the limb is equal to having a gnome with a chainsaw inside your leg. It's a shooting pain, all right, but it doesn't "shoot." That sounds too slow. It "fires" like a canon, following the line right up to your hip. No weight, the pain lessens. Weight, it grabs you again. Trust me. I'm an expert at breaking things. I haven't done it lately *she stops to knock wood* but I have done it often, especially since the strokes. I break fingers, wrists, collar bones, etc. I've learned HOW to fall now, but I remember those times when I tried to catch myself.

Melisande
05-16-2008, 09:51 AM
The last time I broke my leg, I heard the snap (too light, more like a crack)..no question..then there's the simulataneous, gut-wrenching pain, and like soccer mom says, it sort of weakens after a minute or two. But it's a trick. A little while later, trying to put weight on the limb is equal to having a gnome with a chainsaw inside your leg. It's a shooting pain, all right, but it doesn't "shoot." That sounds too slow. It "fires" like a canon, following the line right up to your hip. No weight, the pain lessens. Weight, it grabs you again. Trust me. I'm an expert at breaking things. I haven't done it lately *she stops to knock wood* but I have done it often, especially since the strokes. I break fingers, wrists, collar bones, etc. I've learned HOW to fall now, but I remember those times when I tried to catch myself.

First; My sympathies.:Hug2:

Second; I totally agree with your description. I've had broken arms, legs and fingers and a severely severed foot. The only thing I don't recognize is the sound. I've never heard a sound...

Appalachian Writer
05-16-2008, 09:53 AM
First; My sympathies.:Hug2:

Second; I totally agree with your description. I've had broken arms, legs and fingers and a severely severed foot. The only thing I don't recognize is the sound. I've never heard a sound...

Sympathies back at ya! OMG, the foot thing sounds horrible! Is it okay now?

Ravenlocks
05-16-2008, 11:42 AM
Thanks, this has helped a lot (and I'm wincing for you guys and hope you're fine now). Rep points coming up!

HeronW
05-16-2008, 12:17 PM
If the break is acute--bone at an angle it will go through muscle and skin--that ups the nastyness and pain to beyond what was thought possible to survive. If the muscles/skin are intact there's still swelling. Depending on what bone where--if the broken leg bone cut through a major vessel like the femoral artery, internal bleeding could cause unconsciousness, a chance of stroke and death

L M Ashton
05-16-2008, 03:39 PM
I've only broken fingers and toes and I've never had that numb after feeling. It's all been shooting pain like a continuous burning stabbing. Numbness didn't set in. Ever. Not even with the local anaesthetic the doc used while popping the joints back and realigning the bones. But locals don't work on me. Nor do most pain killers. Anyway...

Yeah, I'd go with the shooting burning cannon description. :)

Maryn
05-16-2008, 05:40 PM
Laurie, for strictly humanitarian reasons, I hope alcohol works for you. I can't imagine my aching body without painkillers as needed.

Maryn, old and creaky

Melisande
05-16-2008, 06:18 PM
Sympathies back at ya! OMG, the foot thing sounds horrible! Is it okay now?

Yeah, it's OK. That was many years ago. I can dance...;)

Kathie Freeman
05-16-2008, 08:13 PM
Definitely a cracking-snapping sound, and pain, but something else, too. It's hard to describe, but when a major bone breaks there's a kind of combination cold-chill electric-shock sensation that goes through your whole body and you just know - "damn, I've done it again!"

Soccer Mom
05-16-2008, 08:20 PM
And nausea! I almost forgot that. After a severe break, when the pain recedes you are often in shock. I have felt cold chills and nausea and was close to passing out. It's a weird out-of-body sort of feeling. Very detached.

Kalyke
05-16-2008, 08:39 PM
I've been lucky enough never to have a broken leg, so I'm not sure if I'm describing it adequately. The character has just fallen in the woods.

"Pain shot up his leg, a sharp pain of torn muscles and then a numbness, perhaps a sign of broken bone."

I broke my leg riding a bike (my story posted now in MTS has a bit of what I recall).

Mine was actually "shattered" which is called comminuted. It was in dozens of pieces and there was a huge amount of soft tissue damage because it actually twisted around, so I don't think it would be the same sort of a broken bone that your character feels. I have actually heard of people who have broken the fibia, and sometimes it can be mistaken for a badly turned ankle.

The first thing is that there is no "real" pain for maybe a minute, not like you will eventually feel, anyway. You're basically on your butt, trying to figure out why you are on your butt. The sharp pain thing is not totally realistic. It goes numb first, pretty much, until your nerves assess the damage, and then you feel pain. Think "getting hit on the thumb by a hammer." You actually feel nothing at first, then your thumb feels sort of "dead" or "far away," then your thumb feels a thumping pain that goes up your arm. (Try this experiment. Go to the basement and get a hammer...) You immediately loose the ability to lift it in any way. There is no getting up and walking. The only exception is if the small fibula bone is the one that broke, then you can sort of walk, but not really. The pain is exactly like a very severe muscle cramp that will not end, like you might get in your calf, or the arch of your foot. If your leg moves, you can actually feel the razor sharp ends of the bones cutting and grating. The dull muscle cramp feeling throbs. Anytime anyone moves or touches it, the pain comes back. You cannot sleep without drugs unless you "pass out," or are exhausted. When it is in a position of rest, the pain subsides, so you beg the people who are helping you (if any) to leave you alone.

When you break your leg-- you know it. There is no "perhaps."


The sound is very loud, like a gunshot, or a truck backfiring. If you break both bones of the lower arm or leg, you hear double pops. I describe them as wet pops because it is like you would hear if you snapped a carrot in two, only much louder, maybe a little more brittle sounding. For more information go to mybrokenleg.com they have a really good explanation of the pain.

There are also stages to the pain. Within the first 24 hours, a massive amount of fluid goes to the leg in order for the osteoblasts osteoplasts to begin repair. It becomes hot, fever hot, because these cells need that heat to survive. The leg swells to nearly twice its size. They won't even cast it until this initial swelling has gone down. There is a "rush" of blood that you can actually hear in your ears when you sit up. It is like a river. The blood forms a cocoon around the broken part of the leg. This eventually becomes what is called the "soft callus." It is like a mass of blood clots. This becomes a hard callus as the injury site begins to rob calcium from all parts of your body to make raw building materials... There's more. It is quite interesting, but painful.

StephanieFox
05-16-2008, 09:20 PM
When I broke mine, the pain did not shoot up my leg, but was localized to the area. It was an ache, but it hurt like hell unless I elevated my leg and then the pain was managable.

It was at night and I was camping when this happened and it took me two days to get to a hospital. But it was not a compound fracture. I kept it wrapped so it didn't move. I had to wear a cast for eight weeks.

Yes, I did hear a loud snap.

Melenka
05-17-2008, 12:29 AM
With a compound fracture, you would hear it and know it. With a spiral fracture, you wouldn't hear it and you might not know it was a break. I have been lucky enough to never have broken a bone (toes cracked in ballet do not count, they break as a matter of course and no one will set them), but my son was able to walk on his leg after he broke it. It just hurt severely. Yeah, we cursed the gym teacher, the school nurse, the principal, etc. and then took him to the hospital for x-rays. If your character had that sort of fracture, he could bind it tightly, and continue on for short distances until he found help. It would be awful, but doable.

Ravenlocks
05-17-2008, 12:58 AM
Thanks, everyone, this is great stuff and very useful!

Kathie Freeman
05-18-2008, 01:08 AM
Pretty soon there's a humungous bruise over the area of the break.

Ravenlocks
05-18-2008, 01:59 AM
Pretty soon there's a humungous bruise over the area of the break.
Would the bruise appear within, say, half an hour? If my character lies in the woods waiting for help for an hour or two (or maybe more), when do you think he would notice the bruise?

L M Ashton
05-18-2008, 05:15 AM
Laurie, for strictly humanitarian reasons, I hope alcohol works for you. I can't imagine my aching body without painkillers as needed.

Maryn, old and creaky
I don't drink alcohol. At all. Ever. :) So, no, I feel the pain, all the pain, all the time... :)

Azure Skye
05-18-2008, 04:34 PM
I asked this question some time ago and got some great answers.
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=67161&highlight=broken+bone

I hope that helps some more.

Tsu Dho Nimh
05-18-2008, 06:52 PM
Would the bruise appear within, say, half an hour? If my character lies in the woods waiting for help for an hour or two (or maybe more), when do you think he would notice the bruise?

Swelling and bruising starts almost immediately. That's one of the things we look for in wounded skiers, and it shows up by the time they reach the aid station.

Ravenlocks
05-20-2008, 11:29 PM
Thanks, everyone!

MsK
05-21-2008, 06:35 AM
I may as well ask my question within this thread also.
My character is going to fall from a short ladder and land on her arm. I want it to be a pretty simple break. The most simple break she could experience , yet, still have a break.
Questions...
What would you call a simple break?

How would she feel immediately after it breaks? I've read through this post and the linked post, and see a wide range of feelings after various broken bones. Is there anything specific to a minor broken arm?

She will have a neighbor drive her to emergency room. What will take place once she arrives, specific to her broken arm? Xrays? Cast? Permanant cast? Temporary cast? How long does the "casting" take?

Will she be released to go home as soon as she is in the cast? I assume she will be on pain killers for a few days?

How long will she have to wear the cast?

Any help would be much appreciated.

Kalyke
05-21-2008, 07:13 AM
Greenstick fracture of ulna. Green stick is more of a crack than a break completely through. About 2 weeks in most likely a soft cast/ split, or a hard cast with sling (this all depends on the doctor The injury requires protection. It is still a broken bone but it is a minor broken bone. Any bunging on a table will bring severe pain). She would do some physical therapy-- squeezing tennis ball, rotating (slowly) the injured arm. She would probably be at work after a day off
Some Hydrocodone for a few days. Ask doctor about meds. Hydrocodone seems to be the flavor of the month these days.

What happens at hosp? It would not be an "emergency emergency," so she'd probably have to wait in the waiting lobby till an opening. It is QUITE possible that they would X-ray, look at it, give her pain pills, put a soft cast (flexible bandages) on it, and tell her to go home and make an appointment with orthopedics for the next day. I has a friend who broke an arm and they did just this and his arm was a severe break. The point is, they don't cast until the area is not swollen. If you cast with swelling you have a loose cast.

MsK
05-21-2008, 07:17 AM
Thanks Use Her Name, that is very helpful.

She_wulf
05-21-2008, 07:45 AM
Questions...
What would you call a simple break?


I'd say a hairline fracture would be the ticket. Here's why....

My daughter had a hairline fracture in the small bone of her forearm. She got it because she put her hands out to catch herself on the way down and most of her weight compressed the bone and cause a crack that ran from her wrist to about two and a half inches up the bone.



She will have a neighbor drive her to emergency room. What will take place once she arrives, specific to her broken arm? Xrays? Cast? Permanant cast? Temporary cast? How long does the "casting" take?

Will she be released to go home as soon as she is in the cast? I assume she will be on pain killers for a few days?

How long will she have to wear the cast?

She had to have a cast that immobilized her wrist. The hospital trip took about a half hour before a doctor/PA saw her, then X-rays which took another hour at least. There was a long wait between X-rays and the PA returning. It may even have been a different "doctor" (we never did see a "real" doctor). So about two hours after arriving we were told the extent of the break. She'd been given an ice pack that was completely melted/warm by that point so a nurse brought in another one. She was finally given Tylenol at that point. It really didn't have an effect because we'd been waiting so long and it wasn't strong enough to combat the pain.

About twenty minutes after being told what kind of break it was, seeing the fuzzy black and white pictures (where the young med student/intern pointed out the hairline) and after reading all the magazines in the room, plus the stupid posters (two or more years old) on the walls, the directions for how to use the blood pressure cuff...opening drawers (which my daughter yelled at me for doing. Sue me, I was curious and we were left to our own devices...) Where was I? Oh yeah...

Anyways...twenty minutes later a nurse came in and wrapped up her arm. ***I think they put her in a soft cast and then later put on the colorful cast, so it may have been two trips. Sorry, it was almost ten years ago. *** First they put a sock on her arm which is really a sleeve of stretchy cotton spandex. Then there was a cotton batting like material. When they put it on they began applying the quick set plaster strips. On top of that was another "colorful" coating made of something. I believe it may have fiberglass in it because it set up very hard. I didn't pay much attention to that part because I had been interrupted after finding a drawer with some funny looking metal pointing things in it...ooo shiny!

I remember the nurse asking her what color she wanted. There was a choice between navy, white, hot pink, green (neon), orange..um red? There's even "patterned" coverings. I think camouflage and flowered were two choices. Maybe a nurse could answer that. Morgan chose hot pink. We got to leave as soon as the paperwork was signed.

After about two weeks it didn't hurt her much and she stopped taking Tylenol/etc. for it. They never prescribed her pain medication either because she was a child, or because it wasn't necessary so I think you're MC could do without. However, doctors (perhaps) are a bit more lenient or ready to prescribe medication for adults because 1) they may sue, and 2) face it, adults are wusses and complain more about the pain.

She had to keep it on for six weeks. She only needed a sling for the first four days. After that, she just slung it around like a club. It came in handy on the playground. (She was eight.)



How would she feel immediately after it breaks? I've read through this post and the linked post, and see a wide range of feelings after various broken bones. Is there anything specific to a minor broken arm?

I don't know about how Morgan felt with her arm but I've broken two bones and here's my impressions of the pain.

Break #1
broken finger (hit a wall instead of a person and made the mistake of not checking where the stud was...) an ache-y sort of pain, but not much sharp pain except for when I moved it, then it felt exactly like it was supposed to...rough bone shifting around amidst tendons and muscle. It was as if someone put something inside my hand and was twisting it around but coming from the inside out not the outside in - does that make sense? It was also accompanied by a numb feeling, slight bruising and couldn't close my hand because it swelled slightly.

I went for X-rays a day later which confirmed it was broken. They put a cast on. (Plain white in those days) The pain and numbness continued until the cast came off. To this day the bone is bent and when it rains or gets cold it aches. I didn't get pain meds.

Break #2 my little toe
There was immediate pain. A sort of OMG I wanna curl up into a fetal ball and cry type pain. (I was an adult by this point and major wussing was going on) I could hobble on it, but was not comfortable putting shoes on. X-rays confirmed a hairline (less severe than green stick type) fracture but because it is primarily used for standing/walking etc. and balance it gave me problems for months.

The doctor prescribed medication, but I was allergic to it. Then she prescribed something else which I had a reaction to. Lucky me...can't take codeine or similar, can't take opiates (allergies) and the synthetics give me stomach problems...whoot! Not. I took Motrin chased by Tylenol four hours later. Then Motrin three hours after that.(A trick I learned when my girls were little and would spike fevers between doses)

I had a "boot" which is a Frankenstein shoe with canvas straps to make it adjustable. No cast. After I got the ok to stop wearing it I still hobbled for a long time. I had to "relearn" how to walk correctly because I spent so much time avoiding putting weight on that side of my foot it had changed my gait. In retrospect the fracture in my hand was much more severe, but the silly foot injury sidelined me more.

Hope that helps.

Amy

MsK
05-21-2008, 08:16 AM
Cut and paste. Cut and paste.
;) Kidding.
But, great information. That is going to help so much.
The incident takes place towards the end of the story and I needed something to stall my character temporarily. The broken arm works great.
I'd written the broken arm it in, but, I just wrote a bunch of jibber jabber about what I thought she would be going through. Thanks again for the help in turning my jibber jabber into a real life scenario.

Ashmash467
01-21-2018, 03:13 PM
You hear the snap before the pain. Trust me I broke my tibia and fibula as a kid and sat there wondering what that snap was, then I shifted and felt like my leg was covered in acid. I thought I was dying. There was pain quite literally throbbing up my leg in waves that sent my onto my back. Depending on there the break is the pain reception can be different. Age can also change the way people receive the pain. But to me as a twelve year old, fire burning into my bones was what I felt. A broken finger will hurt like a bitch, but a broken leg or ribs is much more painful via movement of any kind.