Overview

A greenstick fracture occurs when a bone bends and cracks, instead of breaking completely into separate pieces. The fracture looks similar to what happens when you try to break a small, "green" branch on a tree.

Most greenstick fractures occur in children younger than 10 years of age. This type of broken bone most commonly occurs in children because their bones are softer and more flexible than are the bones of adults.

Even mild greenstick fractures are usually immobilized in a cast. In addition to holding the cracked pieces of the bone together so they can heal, a cast can help prevent the bone from breaking all the way through if the child falls on it again.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms will vary, depending on the severity of the greenstick fracture. Mild fractures might be mistaken for sprains or bruises. More-severe greenstick fractures may cause an obvious deformity, accompanied by significant pain and swelling.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor if your child has persistent pain in an injured limb. Seek immediate medical attention if a child is unable to bear weight or if there is obvious pain, deformity and swelling.

Causes

Childhood fractures most commonly occur with a fall. Arm fractures are more common than leg fractures, since the common reaction is to throw out your arms to catch yourself when you fall.