A greenstick fracture is an incomplete fracture of the bone, with the cortex disrupted on one side but intact on the other. It is likened to the effect seen when a young green branch is snapped but only breaks on one side.
The break occurs on the outer side of the bend (tension) while the inside remains in continuity (in compression).
Depending on the degree of bend, the greenstick fracture must be bent back into a proper position (reduced) and then held in that position, generally by plaster of paris fixation.
Greenstick fractures can take a long time to heal because they tend to occur in the middle, slower growing part of the bone, whereas buckle fractures tend to occur towards the physes and will heal faster.
Clinical signs and symptoms may be subtle, greenstick fracture may be evident on x-ray only as a small irregularity and is often only visible in one plane.
Even when these fractures are moderately angulated reduction is relatively simple, as the strong cortex holds while the fracture is manipulated back to a normal position, and the intact cortex allows maintenance of a good position.