A broken bone is not a fun experience. Besides the pain, it requires careful treatment, and depending on the severity and location of the break, it may also need surgical intervention. Once you have been given appropriate care, the healing process can begin in earnest and your body is going to need as much help in healing as possible. This means allowing for adequate rest, nutritional support, and can even involve a lifestyle change, such as stopping tobacco use or avoiding certain activities, until and after your doctor tells you it is okay.
Your Bones Heal in Stages
The first thing you should understand is that bones heal in distinct stages. In the first phase, the bone, which is a living tissue, forms a blood clot around the damaged ends of bone. There are specific cells, called phagocytes (Latin for eating), that are contained in the clot. These cells seek out and consume bacteria, cleaning the bone from the inside. In the second stage, a soft callus, formed mostly out of collagen, is created by another specific set of cells, known as chondroblasts to protect and help heal the broken bone. This phase usually lasts anywhere from four days to three weeks.
In the third stage, the callus becomes much harder and more durable. Osteoblasts, or bone forming cells, create new bone by adding minerals. This stage starts around six weeks to twelve weeks from the time of the fracture. In the very last phase, the bone is smoothed and remodeled by cells called osteoclasts, which slowly return the bone to the original shape. Many people are unaware that this particular phase can actually take three to nine years to complete.
Action Steps: How to Support Bone Healing
- Stop Smoking – If you use tobacco products, you should immediately stop. Smoking inhibits strong bone growth and is linked to weaker bones, which can dramatically increase your chances of another fracture.
- Calcium and Vitamin D – Talk to your healthcare provider about adding calcium and vitamin D supplements to your diet. Increasing calcium alone may not be enough. This is because Vitamin D helps to process calcium within the body. The amount you need will depend on your age and gender as well as other factors, such as current medications and your overall activity level.
- Exercise Appropriately – Make sure to complete any necessary physical therapy and talk to your doctor about regular exercise. Exercising adds bone mass and increases overall body health.
- Eat a Balanced Diet – Food supplies the fuel and building blocks your body needs to heal. Kale, spinach, milk, leafy greens and bell peppers are all excellent sources of calcium and other vital bone-building nutrients.
- Follow the Treatment Plan Outlined by Your Doctor – Make sure you follow all of your doctor’s orders. Make sure to allow your body adequate rest, as it takes a large amount of energy to rebuild bone. Never cut off a cast yourself. Make sure to leave it on in order to help the bones align properly.
If you or a loved one is recovering from, or needs treatment for, a broken bone or any other bone related treatment, please contact Orthopaedic Associates at (440) 892-1440 to schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained Orthopaedic Physicians. Orthopaedic Associates: Specializing in you.