Variable Heart Rates are Necessary
To understand how your heart rate increases when you break a bone
, you must first understand the role your heart plays in the smooth running of your body. Your heart rate varies all day long; these variations have many different sources. What you eat, what medications you take, whether you're at rest or exerting yourself, and what kind of stress you're experiencing, can all trigger alterations in your heart rate. If we didn't have such an adjustable pump, we would be unable to release the oxygen needed to support appropriate activity in times of danger, injury or illness so this variable heart rate is quite important in our daily lives.
Trauma Triggers Heart Rate Increases
When you break a bone, you're experiencing a physical trauma. The body responds to injury, stress, worry, and anxiety as it responds to fear and excitement – by activating the “fight or flight” response. On the chemical level, your body releases a series of hormones that make you hyper-alert, focused, and energized. This chemical release triggers increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and perspiration. Though this "fight or flight" response is appropriate and useful when you can fight or fly, when you break a bone, or suffer many other severe traumas to your physical person, fighting and escaping are often not possible.
Am I having a Heart Attack?
If you feel your heart beat increasing just as you experience a powerful, physical or emotional trauma and you don't have serious heart disease, you're probably not having a heart attack. If you're playing basketball and break a finger jumping to tap the ball to your teammates, your heart may continue to beat at an increased rate because of your activity, but a broken finger may not be a serious enough trauma to cause a reaction in your heart. If you slip on an icy sidewalk and break your arm, the seriousness of that event is almost certainly substantial enough to result in increased heart rate.
Reacting to Your Trauma
Let's say that you have just broken a bone and feel the pain of the injury as well as the increased beating of your heart: what should you do? Clearly, neither "fight" nor "flight" are appropriate responses; the best scenario is that you are in a populated area and can expect assistance very soon. In this case, try not to move as any movement could cause additional damage and try to take deep, slow breaths. This is very difficult in an emergency situation, but it is the best way to start the process that returns your heart rate to normal.