Healthy Blog

Greenstick Fracture: Diagnosis and Prognosis – How Physiotherapy Returns Strength & Mobility

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A greenstick fracture is an incomplete fracture where the bone doesn’t split completely into two sections.  Greenstick breaks usually happen to children - owing to the flexibility of young bones - but these fractures sometimes happen to adults, too. 

Diagnosis

Generally speaking, a greenstick fracture is caused by fall or blunt trauma. The area around the fracture is painful and looks swollen, red and bruised. Diagnosis can be difficult because there may not be all the signs of a broken bone.  Often an X-ray or CT scan is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

  • Fracture Reduction: Pressure is applied to straighten the bone. Post-operative traction may also be needed to straighten a resistant fracture.
  • Cast Application: A cast is used after the straightening operation to immobilise the affected bone.  This usually stays on for about 3 – 4 weeks.

The importance of physiotherapy

When the cast is removed the physiotherapist has to assess the condition and check for complications caused by tissue damage.  Nerve damage greatly increases the time needed for rehabilitation.

Expert treatment from a physiotherapist is necessary to regain former strength and mobility.  In greenstick fractures, the recovery time needed to regain full movement depends on how serious the injury is and how much the patient co-operates with the physio.

Scar tissue

After the plaster has been removed, the muscles will be weak and unable to support the affected limb or the veins that aid blood flow. Furthermore, the joint may be stiff with restricted movement owing to the formation of scar tissue around the fracture.

This is why it’s so important to follow the exercise program designed by the physiotherapist.  Using massage and heat therapy to reduce any residual pain and swelling, the physiotherapist will gently manipulate the joint and break down the early scar tissue that’s restricting movement.

Prognosis

Without physiotherapy, the scar tissue will harden and the reduced mobility will become permanent.  In addition, the physio will prescribe special exercises to strengthen your affected muscles and stretching to help improve and extend your mobility.

Each case is different, so there’s no rule about how long it’ll take to return to your pre-accident condition.  However, the folks who stick to the exercise plan prescribed by their physio are twice as likely to regain their former muscle strength and mobility!