How Do Broken Bones Heal?

The most common causes of broken bones or fractures are trauma from a fall or accident, osteoporosis or the weakening of the bones, and overuse of muscles and bones through repetitive motion. When you break your bones, the affected area is not just painful and difficult to move, but is also swollen and tender, bruised, and deformed.

This injury requires immediate attention and the broken bones must be placed back into position before preventing them from moving out of place so they can start healing. So, how are bones healed and what happens during the process?

The Healing Process
There is a healing process that broken bones go through no matter what type of fracture has been sustained. These are inflammation, bone production, and bone remodeling.

1. Inflammation
When the bones are fractured, the area becomes inflamed as a result of the bleeding and the clotting of the blood. The inflammation is your body’s way to prevent infections on the area and it’s also a framework to produce new bones.

2. Bone Production
As soon as the blood clots in the affected area, the formation of new bones begin. The clotted blood is slowly replaced with fibrous tissue and cartilage or soft callus. The cartilage in turn is slowly replaced by hard bone or hard callus in a matter of weeks.

3. Bone Remodeling
Bone remodeling can take place for several months depending on the extent of the damage. The bone is still forming while the blood circulation in the area improves until the new bone becomes compact and returns to its original shape. Bone fractures take 12 weeks or less to heal, but it’s usually faster among children than adults.

Treating Broken Bones
Broken bones are treated through any of the following procedures: cast immobilization, brace or functional cast, traction, external fixation, and open reduction and internal fixation.

Broken bones need immediate attention because even if the body can still heal the fracture all by itself, you will open yourself to other medical problems such as infections, growth abnormalities, compartment syndrome, neurovascular injury, malunion, nonunion, posttraumatic arthritis, and delayed union.

Continuous Healing and Recovery
The speed of bone healing will depend on the health and lifestyle of the person. Your doctor will advise you to eat a healthy diet, take nutritional supplements, control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and to stop smoking. Movement of bone fragments, early weightbearing, smoking, diabetes and other hormone-related conditions, medications, infection of the fracture, old age, poor diet and metabolism, and low levels of vitamin D and calcium can affect the healing of the fractures.

If the bones don’t heal as planned, your doctor will recommend you to a surgeon who can design a treatment plan that will optimize bone growth through continued immobilization, bone stimulation, bone grafting, or through bone growth proteins. When the bone has healed, you might also need physical therapy to rehabilitate your bones so that you can regain your strength and balance.