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. Broken bones are common injuries, and many children will experience at least one fracture in their growing years. How they happen and how they are treated can be very different in children than adults. Since a child’s bones are growing rapidly, they have more flexibility and may not break completely. Instead, what we will see is a break more commonly referred to as a greenstick fracture.

What is a Greenstick Fracture?

Greenstick fracture is a mild bone fracture commonly seen in young children. This kind of fracture is characterized by a crack or break on one side of a long bone in the arm or leg that does not extend all the way through the bone. The bone fracture occurs the same way you would bend a green branch of tree. 

Who is at the Risk of a Greenstick Fracture?

Greenstick fracture is very common in children under the age of 10. Children are more likely to have greenstick fractures because their bones are softer and less brittle than an adult’s. Treatment involves immobilization of the bone, or in some cases surgery.

Types of Greenstick Fractures

Following are the types of greenstick fractures:

  • Greenstick Fracture of Clavicle: When a child experiences a direct blow to his upper chest and shoulder or to an outstretched hand, he may suffer from greenstick fracture of the clavicle. The clavicle bone becomes stronger in about 20 years, which means even teenagers may get such fractures.
  • Greenstick Fracture of Wrist: This fracture occurs when a child falls from a height and lands on his palm or gets a direct blow to his palm. The lower third or the middle third of radius or the bones of forearm break in a greenstick fracture of the wrist.
  • Greenstick Fracture of Tibia: In a greenstick fracture of the tibia, the middle third or bottom third of the tibia shaft is broken. This can happen when a child receives a direct hit to his leg or lands from a height on his feet.

Causes of Greenstick Fractures

Greenstick fractures result from the bending of a bone. Any force that bends a long bone, such as an arm or leg bone, without fully breaking it can cause a greenstick fracture. Instead of snapping into two pieces, the bone cracks on one side. The term “greenstick fracture” is used because it evokes a young, green branch that bends, and even splinters, but does not fully break.

Although a greenstick fracture can result from a fall or an impact to the shin or forearm, the fracture pattern often suggests a bending or contortion of a limb. This can arise when a child’s arm is twisted too forcefully, either intentionally or unintentionally. Greenstick fractures can also be caused by participation in sports, motor vehicle accidents and falls. 

While greenstick fractures mostly occur in infants or toddlers, they can sometimes occur in children during their early adolescent and pre-adolescent years. A greenstick fracture can be very painful. In smaller children and babies, a greenstick fracture will almost universally cause the child to cry inconsolably. Older children will typically clutch the injured limb or body part to protect it. Localized bruising and swelling may also occur.

Symptoms of Greenstick Fractures

The symptoms of a greenstick fracture vary depending on the severity of the fracture. You may only develop a bruise or general tenderness in more mild fractures. In other cases, there might be an obvious bend in the limb or fractured area, accompanied by swelling and pain.

The symptoms of a greenstick fracture depend on the severity of the crack. Symptoms of greenstick fractures include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Deformity (a bending or twisting) of the affected body part

Diagnosing Greenstick Fractures

Your child may find it difficult to explain the injury or his symptoms; it is important that you observe your child for any of the above-mentioned symptoms and seek immediate medical help.

If your child is experiencing continuous pain in his limbs, which does not subside after 2-3 days or your child is unable to put pressure on his limbs or bend it, you should seek a doctor immediately. Your doctor may do tests to know if he has got a fracture. 

The doctor will:

  • Examine physical symptoms, such as swelling, tenderness or deformity of the limbs.
  • Check for the nerve damage.
  • May ask your child to move his fingers or other affected limbs to check for the damage.
  • After examining all the physical symptoms and conducting physical tests, your doctor will ask you to go in for greenstick fracture radiology or an x-ray.

Treatment of Greenstick Fractures

Depending on the severity of the greenstick fracture, the doctor may need to straighten the bone manually so it will heal properly. If the fractured bone is not badly bent out of alignment, a splint or cast may be all that is needed to treat the break. A growing skeleton has the remarkable ability to remodel bone so that fractures can often realign themselves over time with little intervention. 

The healing of a greenstick fracture is dependent on a number of factors, including the age of the child, the severity of the break, and the location of the break. By and large, the younger the child is, the easier the recovery will be.

X-rays are required in a few weeks to make sure the fracture is healing properly, to check the alignment of the bone, and to determine when a cast is no longer needed. 

Healing Time of Greenstick Fractures

The average time for any greenstick fracture to heal completely may take four weeks. However, it also depends on the severity of the fracture, and thus it may take anywhere from two to eight weeks for such kind of fractures to heal.

A Word From Ventura Orthopedic Today

Bone healing typically proceeds without much problem. However, there are situations where people have problems healing bone after fractures or surgery to fuse the bone together. In these situations, there may be steps to help stimulate the body to heal bone. If you are concerned about your bone health, our specialists are always willing to help you reach your optimal health.

The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. We are committed to helping you through any procedure until optimum health, strength and mobility are restored. Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.


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