Dangers of Avoiding Orthopedic Treatment When in Pain: Risks of Untreated Bone Fracture, Ligament Tear and Other Injuries

Many people shrug off the pain of an injury. You might push through the pain to stay on the playing field. Perhaps you don't want to be a burden to anyone. You might be worried about your job security. You may even have become so accustomed to pain that you barely notice a new injury.

The risks of untreated bone fracture are significant. An untreated fracture or even soft tissue injuries that go untreated can fail to heal properly, leading to unintended pain and potentially permanent damage. 

Why Do Fractures Need to Be Treated Immediately?

x-ray of fractured wrist

Breaking a bone puts exceptional stress on the surrounding muscles and surrounding tissue, no matter where in the body the fracture occurred. While bones typically heal well, your best chance at a full recovery is to have the fracture treated immediately. If you leave a fracture untreated, you're likely to experience complications, often stiffness, persistent pain, or loss of function.

It's possible to sustain a fracture without even being aware that you've broken a bone. Hairline fractures are easy to overlook, in particular. Pay attention to symptoms that include swelling and bruising surrounding an injured area, as well as weakness and tenderness in the joint.Difficulty controlling movement or putting weight on a body part may also indicate a fracture.

Every fracture needs to be immobilized as soon as possible. X-rays will confirm the nature of your fracture and provide orthopaedic surgeons with the information they need to return the bone to its correct position, either with a cast or with surgery.

Common fractures:

Wrist: Many wrist fractures can be treated with casting as long as the alignment of the wrist and forearm is adequate. Your surgeon may recommend a surgery if there is poor alignment or if the joint is involved.

Hip: Almost all hip fractures require surgery, and the aim is to operate as soon as possible. The goal of care is to start walking as soon as possible after a hip fracture. Surgically treating a hip fracture, in most cases, allows the patient to walk the day after surgery. 

Ankle: Injuries to the ankle are common and may involve the bone, ligaments or tendons. The treatment for ankle fractures ranges from splinting to surgery. Many ligament tears (sprains) are treated simply with short-term immobilization and physical therapy. Tendon injuries (such as Achilles tendon rupture) can be treated with casting but your surgeon may recommend a surgery to repair the tendon.

What Happens If a Broken Bone Goes Untreated?

If you fail to treat a fracture immediately, you're likely to experience ongoing severe pain. Bones that aren't set correctly can result in deformities and malalignment that will hinder your mobility and look awkward. Malalignment can later lead to inflammation and degeneration of cartilage, resulting in long-term joint damage, orarthritis.

An untreated fracture may cause damage to nerves or blood vessels.. If blood can't reach your extremities, you might experience bone or tissue death, with the injury never healing. 

What Happens If You Leave a Broken Knee Untreated?

There are many typical fracture patterns in the knee, and they often require surgery. The longer the knee is left untreated, the more likely the patient is to experience even more joint damage, along with reduced mobility. Delaying treatment can result in a surgical procedure that's more complicated, with fewer options available for treatment. In addition, recovery is likely to take longer, with the patient possibly gaining weight as a result of the loss of mobility.

Injuries to Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons

anatomical model of human foot with muscles and ligaments

Sprains, strains, muscle tears and tendonitis are among the many injuries that can accompany broken bones or can occur on their own. Some soft tissue injuries, such as ruptures of the Achilles tendon in the ankle or tears to the rotator cuff, require immediate treatment for continued function.

With lesser soft tissue injuries, some people are tempted to wait to see if the injuries heal on their own. However, damaged soft tissues may become impossible to repair if you wait too long.

What are the treatment options?

Can Tendons Heal Naturally?

Smaller tears in tendons may heal naturally — but without seeing a doctor, you have no way to know whether you have that type of tear. If left untreated, a partial tear can rupture so that your bones and muscles are no longer connected and you are unable to use the affected limb.

Will a Torn Ligament Heal Itself?

Similar to torn tendons, small ligament tears may heal on their own. However, untreated injuries may also develop into complete ruptures that require major surgery. And even smaller tears require bracing, physical therapy and medication to promote healing, which can take many months.

What does the recovery process look like? 

Soft tissue injuries take a long time to heal. Most of these injuries are treated with a short course of immobilization followed by physical therapy to regain motion and function. Significant injuries such as complete tendon tears are treated surgically to regain critical function as soon as possible.

Treatment for Bone Fracture at Ortho Westmount

At Ortho Westmount, we provide meticulous care for your knee and hip injuries, as well as shoulder, upper extremity and back issues. As Montreal's best orthopedic clinic, we're ready to provide the expert care you need. Contact us today to see how we can help you on the path to well-being.