Broken bones can happen after an accident like a fall, or by being hit by an object.
The 3 most common signs of a broken bone (also known as a fracture) are:
However, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether a bone is broken if it is not out of its normal position.
If you've broken a bone:
- you may hear or feel a snap or a grinding noise as the injury happens
- there may be swelling, bruising or tenderness around the injured area
- you may feel pain when you put weight on the injury, touch it, press it, or move it
- the injured part may look deformed – in severe breaks, the broken bone may be poking through the skin
You may also feel faint, dizzy or sick as a result of the shock of breaking a bone.
If the break is small or it's just a crack, you may not feel much pain or even realise that you've broken a bone.
Get medical help as soon as possible if you think you've broken a bone. If you think you may have broken your toe or finger, you can go to a minor injury unit or urgent care centre.
Go to your nearest A&E for a broken arm or leg. Call 999 for an ambulance if the injury to the leg seems severe or you're not able to get to A&E quickly.
Always call 999 for very severe suspected breaks, such as a broken neck or back.
The broken bone must be properly aligned and held in place, often with a plaster cast, so it heals in the correct position.
If you do not receive the correct treatment, you could develop a serious infection or a permanent deformity. You may also have long-term problems with your joints.
It's important not to eat or drink anything if you think you've broken a bone, as you may need a general anaesthetic to allow doctors to realign it.
Older people and those with osteoporosis should be particularly careful, as their bones are weaker and may break more easily.
Page last reviewed: 21 April 2020
Next review due: 21 April 2023