A fracture is simply called a crack in the bone, a connective tissue that makes the human skeleton. It takes a certain amount of time for bone production to heal completely.
There are multiple reasons for fractures, they are, osteoporosis which are especially common for women who have reached menopause, cancer, etc. which make the bone brittle, so one must be very careful.
This context describes the facts about fractures and How long a fracture takes to heal.
1. Types of Fractures
- Transverse: It is a fracture where the bone is broken across the bone.
- Stress Fracture: The bone is broken along the length of the bone and is called a hairline fracture because they are very thin.
- Oblique Fracture: The bone cracks at an angle.
- Greenstick Fracture: Single or multiple fractures at one side and bends on another side.
- Comminuted Fracture: Bone breaks into multiple pieces.
- Compression Fracture: These fractures happen due to the weakening of one or more bones in the spinal cord, so they are typically called spinal fractures.
- Avulsion Fracture: Fractures occur when a tendon or ligament gets removed from the major part of the bone.
2. Symptoms of Bone Fractures
The following are the symptoms, which are experienced when the bone is fractured, they are.
- Inability and discomfort in movement around the fracture.
- Swelling, bruising, stiffness, and sharp pain in the fractured bones.
- Unusual changes in body structure like bone dislocation.
- Sometimes, you may feel dizzy, woozy, or even fall unconscious, if the fracture is deep or comminuted.
Other symptoms like infection and discharge are common in sprains and cuts but may also indicate fractures.
3. Are Bone Fractures Serious?
Our body has the ability to heal or repair bone fractures, that is, the broken bones heal on their own. It may be risky if it is taken carelessly, so medical assistance is required, even if it is a minor fracture. The broken bone may be displaced from its actual position or the orientation may be changed and if the new bone forms, it will create further damage than fracture.
There may be swelling or bleeding in the joints near the fracture site, in a few cases, the infection can also spread to other parts of the body.
Other complications like abnormal healing (excessive or moderate), loss of movement, or weakness in that bone may lead to disability. So, consult orthopaedic surgeons, doctors who are specialized in the musculoskeletal system, whenever you experience the above-stated symptoms.
4. Treatments For Bone Fractures
The main motive of bone treatment is to restore the alignment and structure of broken bones as they were earlier. There are varieties of bone treatments such as immobilization over a period of time and surgeries.
4.1. Non-surgical Treatment Methods
The cast is the traditional treatment method to treat bone fractures. The cast is made up of plaster of Paris or fibreglass and that is wounded around the fracture site to immobilize the fractured bone from the correct position. Wrist fractures and other common fractures like the forearm, leg, ankle, and foot are commonly treated in the casting method.
4.1.2. Functional Braces
These braces are moulded plastic similar to the cast, practised for relatively stable and healing bone. They are removable and hygienic.
4.2. Surgical Treatment Methods
The cases where a fracture is severe, multiple, or unsuitable for the cast require surgery. The surgical methods are:
4.2.1. Open Reduction with Internal Fixation
The broken bone is directly exposed with plates and screws to heal the fractured bone, that is, the broken bone is set into the original position and screwed up. This method is used to treat forearm and upper arm fractures.
4.2.2. Open Reduction with External Fixation
This is a complex treatment method that can be performed only by orthopaedic surgeons under anaesthetic conditions (if you want to know about anaesthesia, check out: How Long Does Anesthesia Last? 5 Types of Anesthesia, Essential Information).
The rods are screwed into the bone and exit the body to an external frame, which is attached with metal pins to position the rods outside the body. Adjustments can be made time-to-time to ensure the bone is placed correctly.
The skin at the point where the metal rods were pierced must be cleaned regularly to prevent infection or sometimes, to avoid infections, casting may also be done there. The external frame and rods are removed after the healing process without anaesthesia.
One must be very careful, even in performing normal activities, for at least 2 months because the holes made on bone may turn into fractures (after the external device is removed)
5. How Long Does a Fracture Take to Heal
Different bones heal differently. The duration of the healing process depends on factors like age, health, and type of bone. Generally, it takes 6-8 weeks for most bones to heal but hand and wrist fractures heal in just 4-6 weeks. The Tibia fracture may take up to 20 weeks or more.
Broken bone heals in three phases.
5.1. Inflammatory Phase
This is the first phase of the bone healing process and inflammation starts immediately after the fracture and lasts up to 1-2 weeks. Bleeding around the fracture becomes a fracture hematoma (also called a blood clot caused by ruptured blood vessels) which affects the blood flow around the fracture site.
During this phase, the immune system becomes active in preventing the pathogens (like germs, bacteria, and viruses), removing the broken pieces of the broken bone, and new blood vessels growing around the blood clot which helps in the healing process.
5.2. Reparatory Phase
Actual tissue damage is repaired in this phase where new bone cells, cartilage, and fibrous tissue occur at the fracture site.
As there is a repair in broken bones, the clot should be removed in order to enhance the growth of new bone. The soft callus is produced around the fractured bone which replaces the collagen with blood clots that form in the inflammatory phase and hold the broken bone parts.
They are relatively stiffer than blood clots but not stiffer than bones, they just hold the healing bone in its place. So, a small movement may break the callus.
About 2 weeks later, osteoblast cells fill the soft callus which secretes bone matrix, adding minerals and other essential molecules that harden the bone. This state is called a hard callus.
This phase lasts up to 2-3 weeks.
5.3. Bone Remodeling
It is the final phase of bone healing and the process may take up to a few months until the callus is replaced with solid bone tissue. The osteoclast cells play a vital role in regulating the shape and structure of growing bone through the process of bone resorption.
Also, osteoclasts break down the soft tissues in bones and secret the minerals which promote the transfer of calcium from bone tissue to the blood.
The two sub-processes of bone remodelling, namely bone regeneration and bone resorption, should go hand in hand or it may cause complexity.
6. Why Choose Foot And Ankle Surgeons?
Foot and ankle surgeons can perform a wide range of surgeries and specialize in foot and ankle fractures. They have a given minimum of 14 years (4 years of medical school and 5 or more years of orthopaedic surgical residence) of training in their undergraduate and medical school to understand the whole body mechanism.
Experience and dedication shape the foot and ankle surgeons’ careers, they treat patients of all ages, both surgical and non-surgical treatments, and are trustworthy.
7. How To Boost Up Healing?
7.1. Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
The instructions and medicines prescribed by the doctor should be followed properly and the medicines should be taken regularly without any skips. Since the correct dosage of medicines will have an impact on bone repair.
Even if you have knowledge about tablets and their dosages, it is advised to consult a doctor before you decide on self-medication.
Overall health accelerates cellular processes which induce speed healing. Maintaining a healthy diet composed of fruits and vegetables and Vitamin D is essential for mineralization and bone remodelling.
A deficiency of Vitamin D can cause osteoporosis, brittle bones, and bone and muscle pain. Minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, and Zinc elevate the healing process.
7.3. Give Up Smoking And Alcohol
It is highly recommended to avoid smoking, at least during the course of treatment. Smoking could potentially reduce blood flow in tiny capillaries which affects fracture healing.
7.4. Antioxidant Intake
The antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene, and alpha-lipoic acid prescribed by orthopaedic surgeons fight free radicals produced by fractured bone.
Alcohol can make medications, for example, blood pressure and medicines for cardiovascular problems less effective or useless. On the other hand, they can increase the complexity and side effects.
7.5. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy can progressively improve your bone health and speed fracture healing as advised by the physical therapist.
Casting immobilizes the fracture and during this time our movement is restricted, so after a few weeks, our muscle weakens. Physical therapy will help break down the scar tissue and regain muscle strength. Muscle use in the injured limb helps blood flow, prevents muscle shrinkage, and nourishes the damaged tissues.
You can perform normal activities but don’t lift too much weight until your bones heal properly.
7.6. Avoid Iron Supplements
Iron supplements may increase the risk of hypothyroidism which can retard bone growth. It is noted that it lessens the effect of levothyroxine, a synthetic hormone used to treat hypothyroidism. So, those who take levothyroxine medication should avoid iron supplements.
7.7. Stay Away From Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Medicines
These anti-inflammatory medicines inhibit the first phase of bone healing. Inflammation may last a few weeks which is essential in overall bone repair otherwise it may cause slow healing.
Of all the medications and treatments, your positive mindset and willpower enhance your recovery.
Take it as a challenge and don’t lose hope.
8. In The End
Although broken bones are common injuries, they are scary to experience. If you break a bone, talk to your provider or surgeon about what to expect. Most people who break a bone make a full recovery and can return to their pre-injury activities without long-term effects.
Do not rush your recovery. Giving your body time to heal can be frustrating, but it’s the best way to prevent re-injury while your bones heal.
9. Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How Do I Make My Fracture Heal Faster?
Nutrient flow and circulation are essential for bone fracture healing. Exercise can help this process if you do it carefully. Joint loading and speed workouts such as swimming or aerobics are crucial if you want to ensure that blood carries nutrients to the fractured region.
Q2. Is Fracture Healing Painful?
Most people who are concussed will eventually recover and become pain-free. However, some people may continue to have pain after a fracture and soft tissue repair.
Q3. Do Fractures Heal Stronger?
Although a misconception, there is no evidence that broken bones will be stronger than before. When a bone breaks, a callus begins to form at the fracture site where calcium is deposited to aid in the healing process.