Almost all bone fractures used to be treated conservatively, but many fractures are treated surgically these days as surgery restores limb function and mobility more quickly.

This avoids the results of long periods of immobilisation such as stiff joints and muscle atrophy, and the anatomy can be accurately restored – especially in articular fractures – preventing, or at least, delaying arthritis onset.

There are fractures treated conservatively that only require pain treatment; they heal without additional therapy. Examples are fractures to ribs and toes as well as some upper-arm fractures.

Immobilisation in rigid dressing is important in other fractures; plaster casts used to be used, but have been replaced by plastic bandaging. Examples are fractures to the wrist or ankle without displacement.

Some fractures clearly require surgical intervention, such as displaced joint fractures and femoral fractures in the elderly – surgery restores mobility as quickly as possible, avoiding the potentially devastating effects of prolonged bed rest.

Fractures can often be treated either conservatively or by surgery. Each case has to be decided on an individual basis; social, professional, family and sporting circumstances and considerations play an essential role in the decision.