Summary: Breaking your nose is, unfortunately, something that happens in life. For some people, their noses will absorb some trauma. The question is, what do you do after that trauma? How can your nose (which, theoretically has no bones) actually “break?” It seems confusing. So we’re going to take a look at exactly what happens when you break your nose and how you can fix it.

Finding Out What Happens When Your Nose Breaks

It’s an interesting thing when you think about breaking your nose. When we think of “breaking” something, it’s usually in reference to bone. You can break your arm or break your leg. But you don’t technically have any bones in your nose, so can you really break it? I know that’s the question I always asked whenever I had to reference a broken nose. Is it really…broken? There’s no bone!

That might be generally true (there is one small bone in your nose that acts as a kind of anchor for everything else—it’s called the nasal bone), that’s not what we’re usually referring to when we talk about “breaking the nose.” In fact, when we talk about breaking the nose, we’re usually speaking of causing damage to the cartilage in the nose.

To understand exactly what happens when you break your nose, it might, in fact, be useful to learn just a bit more about the nose itself.

The Nose is Mostly Cartilage

Remember when you were in grade school and you were learning about sharks? One of the most interesting things about sharks, I always thought, was that they had almost no bone in their bodies. Instead, their skeletons were composed of a substance called cartilage. Now, cartilage is kind of like bone, but it’s nowhere near as heavy or strong.

Instead, cartilage tends to be flexible. It’s more like a robust and dense sponge (to be sure, bone is also porous—it needs to allow for blood flow, after all; it’s simply that cartilage is not as dense as bone). The two materials are related, but quite different. So when we talk about someone “breaking his nose,” it’s usually in reference to traumatizing the cartilage.

Because despite its flexible nature, cartilage can indeed be broken. And that can cause issues to the nose.

Consequences of a Broken Nose

Breaking a bone is a bad thing. It hurts and it causes damage. Breaking your nose really isn’t that different. You can do serious damage to your nose, and that damage sometimes requires substantial time to heal.

You can “break” your nose in several ways. Perhaps the most common cause for a broken nose is simply sports. Athletes have a high proportion of broken noses. But they can also occur from simple accidents. There are plenty of people who have broken their noses by walking into a wall, for example.

Damage Cause by Broken Noses Can:

  • Cause excessive swelling
  • Cause long-lasting nose bleeds (see a doctor if this happens)
  • Twist or otherwise deform the bridge of the nose
  • Deviate the septum (causing breathing or sinus issues)
  • Block the nostrils (one or both)
  • Shift the nose out of position (see a doctor immediately)
  • Cause a grape-like swelling inside the nostril (see a doctor immediately)

Often, there is long-lasting damage from a broken nose. But that damage can be addressed.

How to Fix a Broken Nose

Even if there is no functional damage, a broken nose can leave permanent effects on the face. The nose can look crooked or twisted, bigger than it did before. Many patients want to correct these issues, and the best way to do that is through a procedure called rhinoplasty. Known more colloquially as a “nose job,” rhinoplasty is a surgical procedure that changes the shape of the nose.

The procedure isn’t ideal for all patients, but it can repair the damage caused by a broken nose. For some patients, a non surgical nose job alternative can be used to repair the damage (especially if that damage is subtle enough). However, non surgical options won’t work for all patients.

Every patient will have to decide for himself or herself whether getting their nose back in order is worth it to have surgery.

Best Offense is a Good Defense

The best way to keep your nose looking great is not to break it in the first place! Of course, accidents happen and sometimes things just don’t go our way. If you break your nose or have broken it in the past (some people repeatedly break their noses), then a rhinoplasty procedure might be the right fit for you.

After all, your nose plays an important aesthetic and functional role when it comes to your face. It’s a great idea to protect that role—and protect your face.