A broken nose or a nasal fracture is when one of the bones in the nose breaks or cracks. The bone in the nose bridge is the bone that breaks most frequently. A broken nose is a very common facial injury and comprises about 40% of all injuries to the facial area. Symptoms of a broken nose include swelling and bruising. The nose will be very tender, and there may be significant pain. It may also be severely deformed or out of place. Patients may have difficulty breathing or suffer from excessive nosebleeds. There may be blood coming from the nose or from a cut on the bridge or top of the nose. Symptoms may appear immediately after the break occurs, or might not appear for a couple of days. There may also be bruising around the eyes.
Simply, a broken nose occurs because of a hard, blunt blow to the nose. It may occur with other facial injuries or as an isolated incident. A broken nose is a common injury among athletes, especially those who play hockey or football. A broken nose in hockey may result from a stick or puck to the face. It also may happen after being body checked or during a scrum or fight. In football, a broken nose is rarer because of the face guards, but they can still happen because of the constant body contact. Broken noses are common among mixed martial artists and boxers, as they may be kicked or punched in the face. This traumatic blow can cause the nose to break. For non-athletes, a broken nose may happen after suffering a fall or after a motor vehicle accident.
Minor nasal fractures tend to heal without medical treatment, as long as there is no significant cosmetic deformity. The healing process can be aided by over-the-counter pain medication and ice. Ice should be applied for about 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Make sure the ice is wrapped in a thin towel to prevent skin damage, like frostbite. For broken noses where there is a deformity, manual alignment is needed. If the break has shifted the cartilage and bones in your nose, a procedure called closed reduction may be performed to help realign the nose. This needs to be done within two weeks after the fracture. If there are multiple or severe breaks, surgery may be required to re-shape your nose and realign the bones. If the nasal septum has been damaged, resulting in difficulty breathing, reconstructive surgery may be required.
Most broken noses heal successfully in only a few weeks, although they may remain tender and sore to touch for up to 2 months. It is important to avoid exercise for at least six weeks after treatment, however, especially exercises that are strenuous. A broken nose can make it difficult to breathe and exercising often leads to heavy breathing. Avoid exercising too quickly to avoid complications. Once you feel well enough to begin rehab, start with light cardio to get back into shape. Even if you were in great shape, after 6 weeks off it may be difficult to jump back into your regular routine. If you are an athlete, consult with a doctor before returning to play. Any sport that has physical contact should be avoided for an extended period of time because it could cause further damage to your nose. It is extremely important to ease back into exercising and athletic play. Going back too quickly can cause more harm than good, and lead to further complications. To prevent a broken nose, make sure you are wearing proper equipment when playing sports. If you play hockey, you should wear a full cage to protect against high sticks and pucks, or at the very least, a half visor. For non-athletes, make sure to always wear your seatbelt when traveling in a car, and wear a helmet if you ride a motorcycle or bike. The NYU Langone Medical Center has more information on nose fractures, how to treat them, and how to prevent them.