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Do broken bones hurt?

  1. Mar 28, 2018 #1
    Curiosity question.

    I've never had a broken bone in my life. Though people I've known that have gotten fractures, say it hurts. I'm not entirely sure if it is true or if they are just exaggerating.

    I don't think this question can be answered objectively. I believe any answers will be on the experience spectrum. Due to my knowledge on biology being almost nothing, I don't know if there are nerves on bones. Which begs the question:

    Do fractures on bones hurt?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2018 #2

    Borek

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    Plenty of live cells in the bone, it is not just a piece of calcium carbonate.
     
  4. Mar 28, 2018 #3

    Ryan_m_b

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    There are certainly nerves (and many other types of cells) threaded through bone tissue, bone pain is something that many conditions can cause (cancer, osteonecrosis, fractures etc). I've only fractured my shoulder luckily and that really hurt. For several weeks if I moved my arm beyond hanging straight down the side of my body there was a sharp pain, as well as a fairly regular dull ache. After about a month in a sling it was better thankfully.
     
  5. Mar 28, 2018 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Like a summanabitsch.
     
  6. Mar 28, 2018 #5

    PeroK

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    Why don't you do an experiment and report back with your results? I wouldn't suggest trying a large bone. Perhaps your little finger? Just to see.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 28, 2018
  7. Mar 28, 2018 #6
    I should check my knowledge on bones then.
    :nb) I hope it doesn't hurt anymore. Though I must say, weeks seems pretty fast. You must have good recovery :smile:.

    But if nerves there are just threaded, why would it hurt? Do they get pinched or something when a bone breaks? What is the trigger there for nerves to make you feel pain?
    Ha. I rather not. :-p
     
  8. Mar 28, 2018 #7

    Ryan_m_b

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    The shoulder recovered nicely, IIRC after 6 weeks it was pretty much back to normal aside from being the muscular equivalent to a string of spaghetti compared to my other arm. The collapsed lung was much more of a bear and some part of it never healed fully because to this day lying in certain positions for too long hurts. The lesson about not riding your brand new bike down a hill and over a big ramp at top speed however has lasted til this day.

    Threaded was more of a colloquial term than a literal one, nerves are more ordered than the term may imply. In any case it's a good question and a broad one. Different nerves mostly detect different stimuli (though some detect a combination), those being pressure/mechanics, temperature and chemicals. In this case the pressure being not within normal parameters is likely the main source of pain.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 28, 2018
  9. Mar 28, 2018 #8

    BillTre

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    There are also pain receptors.
    However, this wiki article does not mention them in bone.
     
  10. Mar 28, 2018 #9
    :eek: I think I would lose my stuff if that ever happened to me. Sounds scary. So many things that can go wrong with our bodies :nb). Just thinking about it... nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope.
    ahno.gif

    Aha. I think Stimuli is the keyword I am looking for. Thanks.
     
  11. Mar 29, 2018 #10

    StatGuy2000

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    I have heard many instances of people having minor fractures (say, around the rib, toes, etc.) that they were completely unaware of until being examined (say, during an annual physical). So the short answer is that bone fractures usually cause pain or discomfort, but not necessarily. Much would depend on the extent of the fracture, which bone in which location, etc.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  12. Mar 29, 2018 #11
    I see. Interesting. Could it be that I have gotten broken bones, but felt nothing and that's why I think I have never gotten a bone fracture in my life. Hmmmmm. *thinking*
     
  13. Mar 29, 2018 #12

    BillTre

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    People can often be injured and not be immediately aware of them.
    This happens to me frequently if I am absorbed with doing something at the time. Its a matter of selective attention aand perhaps internal endophines.
    It seems to be frequent in sports also.
     
  14. Mar 29, 2018 #13

    Borek

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    When I get bruised during some sport activities but it doesn't hurt too much and I know where the pain comes from, I don't care too much. I suppose this way one can miss some minor injury that would show on x-ray.
     
  15. Mar 29, 2018 #14

    Evo

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    I have had a number of broken bones, enough so that I can tell the pain from a break from a very bad sprain or muscle tear. I can't describe it, but it's very different, at least for me, so different that I have even correctly challenged doctors that initially misread x-rays and said there was no break. I have the deformed arm and fingers showing their mistakes which were later confirmed by orthopedic surgeons that couldn't believe that radiologists and doctors couldn't see the multiple fractures. I even had an ER doctor put a cast on the WRONG ARM. Ah, modern medicine. I now need to have the bones re-broken and surgery to try to repair the damage. Uhm, nope, not going to happen.
     
  16. Mar 29, 2018 #15

    BillTre

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    My faith in doctors is limited due to similar experiences.
    Once I had a glass pipette go through my finger/hand (in a lab accident) with little pieces breaking off inside.
    Since it was winter break, late in the day, and there was a snowstorm outside.
    I walked to the emergency room (about 6 blocks) and got treated there.
    They pulled out some of the pieces but it still felt to me like something was in there.
    They x-rayed it, but the doctor could see anything.
    After I looked at it, I pointed out to him where it was on the x-ray and he reached in (with forceps) and grabbed it out.
    Lesson to me is to trust your own body feelings.
     
  17. Mar 29, 2018 #16

    Evo

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    OUCH!

    Yeah, the breaks I had was in three fingers, I went back repeatedly for 3 months to DR DEATH insisting the fingers were broken, all he did was tape them together, so they mended badly bent.

    He finally sent me to the orthopedic surgeon to prove he was right and shut me up. When the surgeon walked in he put the x-rays up and pointed at them and said do you see that? And I saw all kinds of stuff. He said you have pieces of bone that's completely broken off, spiral fractures, and here, here and here, the bone is completely broken across (I can't remember the terminology) I had just about every kind of break there is, just none that broke the skin. He asked "your doctor couldn't see any of this???" I said no. My fingers had been purple and the size of sausages, one I had to turn around and pop back into place because it was pointing backwards. I switched doctors.

    So yeah, broken bones HURT.
     
  18. Mar 29, 2018 #17
    I only had one broken seriously bone in my life which was the result of being an over enthusiastic kid on a trampoline. (I landed outside of the trampoline).
    It hurt but eventually it fixed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  19. Apr 2, 2018 #18

    StatGuy2000

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    You must have had very bad luck with incompetent doctors!
     
  20. Apr 2, 2018 #19

    CWatters

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    My son broke a collar bone some years ago. These days they don't strap you up just give you a sling. That night we found him asleep on his back....with both hands behind his head. I guess it didn't hurt too much.
     
  21. Apr 2, 2018 #20

    Jonathan Scott

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    I broke my left arm just below the shoulder about 20 years ago, by slipping and falling in rain on an artificial cobbled driveway at my mother's house which had just been newly installed with a gloss sealant finish (despite the fact that the contract said matt non-slip finish).

    Although the arm hurt very badly, the pain seemed to come from the elbow area, not the upper arm. I don't know whether this is because of "referred pain", that is feeling the pain in the wrong place, or whether it was because the worst pain was not from the break location.

    I suspect in most cases when one breaks a bone, there is also damage to other tissues, so it is not easy to tell whether the bone itself is sending any signals. My own feeling is that there is little or no signal from the broken bone itself.

    In my case I didn't know I'd broken it immediately, and I couldn't find anything specific wrong in the elbow area. I had difficulty sleeping, and it was still bad the next morning (and my arm had turned purple), so my wife drove me to hospital and they X-rayed it, showing a cartoon-style zig-zag break just below the head of the humerus. I suspect much of my pain was from the damage being done by those zig-zag ends. They gave me a sling, and it mostly healed fine, but it seems there was quite a bit of other damage as well as the bone, and it needed a lot of physiotherapy to get back my original range of movement (just in time to perform a solo viola work with orchestra, although I had to remain sitting for early rehearsals so I could support my left elbow using my left knee). Even after that I could no longer sleep with that arm up by my head until many years later, because something seemed to have healed short and didn't allow me to lift my arm to the usual angle.
     
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