The healing process for bone fractures is threefold, involving inflammation, bone production, and bone remodeling. The three distinct stages overlap one another and the involved process to bone healing is the same for natural breaks that are due to injury as it is for a surgical procedure that requires the bone to be cut. Here is what you need to know about the healing process of bone fractures.
Inflammation leads to good things
Inflammation is the immediate response to a bone fracture. We generally think of inflammation as a bad thing, however, in the case of bone fractures, it is the beginning of the healing process. When bleeding into the site leads to inflammation and blood clotting, there can be stabilization and structural integrity that is required to produce new bone.
The actual production of bone begins, as the clotted blood that was formed as a result of inflammation is replaced by soft callus (fibrous tissue and cartilage). As healing advances further, soft callus is replaced by hard bone, also known as hard callus. At this point, the healing process can be tracked on X-Ray as the hard callus becomes visible several weeks following the fracture.
The third and final stage of the bone healing process – remodeling – is also the longest and may take several months. As bone continues to form, it becomes compact and returns to the proper shape. Circulation is improved during remodeling. When bone healing is complete, weight bearing can begin to occur and will actually promote bone remodeling.
The overall healing process can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks.
How to Encourage Healing
Immobilization is crucial if a broken bone is to properly fuse. A doctor will set the bone and then provide a cast or brace, which in some cases will allow the patient limited mobility without endangering the healing process. In some instances, a severe break will require complete immobilization. A plaster or fiberglass cast will totally immobilize the bone for optimal healing. Bearing weight too soon will negatively affect the healing process and could also further damage the fractured bone.
Certain medical conditions will interfere with the healing process. Patients who have diabetes or a hormonal or vascular disease should speak with their doctors for further instructions regarding the healing process and how their condition relates to it.
Additionally, the meds you take and the foods you consume can also affect the healing process. Vitamin D and calcium or the lack thereof will be significant to the process. A daily supplement of the vitamins will encourage healing. Speak with your doctor to find if you should take the daily supplement as part of the healing regimen. Metabolism affects healing, too. Pay attention to the foods you eat while the bones heal.
Poor habits, like smoking, will definitely slow the healing process. Smoking decreases circulation and constricts blood vessels. Circulation is crucial to the healing process, so smokers should consider quitting while their fractures heal.
Getting back to work and play is important to you. It’s important to us too. At Florida Sports Medicine & Orthopedics, our goal is to get every patient back up and running toward his or her good health, but in the safest way possible. Contact our office at (805) 763-0346 or book an appointment online and get back on track for good health.