Healing Broken Bones as Quickly as Possible

6 Ideas to Speed Bone Healing After Injury

Fractures, broken bones—you can call it what you wish, they mean the same thing—are among the most common orthopedic problems; about 7.9 million broken bones come to medical attention each year in the United States.

Despite what you may have heard, a broken bone is not worse than a fracture: They both mean the same thing. In fact, the word fracture, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as "the act of being broken." There are different types of fractures and broken bones, but these words are one and the same and can be caused in various ways. And, although the healing process seems slow, there are several factors you can focus on to make sure you give yourself the opportunity for the best recovery possible.

tips to heal a broken bone faster
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

How Fractures Occur

Fractures occur because an area of bone is not able to support the energy placed on it (quite obvious, but it becomes more complicated). Therefore, there are two critical factors in determining why a fracture occurs: the energy of the event and the strength of the bone.

The energy can be sudden, high-energy (e.g. car crash), or chronic, low-energy (e.g. stress fracture). The bone strength can either be normal or decreased (for example, weak bone is seen in patients with osteoporosis). A very simple problem, the broken bone, just became a whole lot more complicated! 

Therefore, fractures most often result from a force such as a car crash or a fall from a height, or in abnormally weak bones such as those in elderly individuals with osteoporosis. The reason why the fracture occurred is often helpful in determining the best treatment for the injury.

Most Common Broken Bones

Orthopedic surgeons treat fractures throughout the skeletal frame, except for the skull (neurosurgeon) and face (ENT, or ear, nose, and throat surgeon). Extremity fractures are most common, and usually occur in men younger than age 45, and then become more common in women over age 45.

After this age, women have a more rapid loss of bone density and a likelihood of developing bone thinning. This is why women are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis and subsequent fractures.

The most common fracture prior to age 75 is a wrist fracture. In those over age 75, hip fractures become the most common broken bone.

Healing Broken Bones

Healing a broken bone takes time, and depends on several factors including patient age, overall health, nutrition, blood flow to the bone, and treatment. Following these six tips may help:

  1. Stop SmokingSome of the recommendations in this list may be controversial, or unknown the extent to which they affect bone healing. However, this much is clear: patients who smoke, have a much longer average time to healing, and a much higher risk of developing a nonunion (non-healing of the bone). Smoking alters the blood flow to the bone, and it is that blood flow that delivers the necessary nutrients and cells to allow the bone to heal. The number one thing you can do to ensure your recovery from a fracture is not smoke. If you know someone who has a fracture and smokes, find ways to help them quit. 
  2. Eat a Balanced Diet. Healing of bone requires more nutrients that the body needs to simply maintain bone health. Patients with injuries should eat a balanced diet, and ensure adequate nutritional intake of all food groups. What we put into our body determines how well the body can function and recover from injury. If you break a bone, make sure you are eating a balanced diet so that your bone has the necessary nutrition to make a full recovery.
  3. Watch Your Calcium. The focus should be on all nutrients. It's true that calcium is needed to heal bones, but taking excessive doses of calcium will not help you heal faster. Ensure you are consuming the recommended dose of calcium, and if not, try to consume more natural calcium--or consider a supplement. Taking mega-doses of calcium does not help a bone heal faster.
  4. Adhere to Your Treatment Plan. Your doctor will recommend a treatment, and you should adhere to this. Your doctor may recommend treatments including cast, surgery, crutches, or others. Altering the treatment ahead of schedule may delay your recovery. By removing a cast or walking on a broken bone before your doctor allows, you may be delaying your healing time.
  5. Ask Your Doctor. There are some fractures that may have treatment alternatives. For example, "Jones" fractures of the foot are a controversial treatment area. Studies have shown these fractures usually heal with immobilization in a cast and crutches. However, many doctors will offer surgery for these fractures because patients tend to heal much faster. Surgery creates potential risks, so these options must be weighed carefully. However, there may be options which alter the time it takes for a bone to heal.
  6. Augmenting Fracture Healing. Most often, external devices are not too helpful in accelerating fracture healing. Electrical stimulationultrasound treatment, and magnet have not been shown to accelerate the healing of most fractures. However, in difficult situations, these may be helpful to aid in the healing of broken bones.

Everyone wants their bone to heal as quickly as possible, but the truth is that it will still require some time for the injury to recover. Taking these steps will ensure that you are doing everything you can to make your bone recovers as soon as possible.

Role of Medications

If you have sustained a broken bone, make sure your physician is aware of the medications that you are taking. There are some medications that can interfere with fracture healing, and the should be discussed with your doctor. In some situations, your doctor may recommend discontinuing specific medications after a fracture in order to allow for bone healing.

One type of medication that some physicians believe can slow fracture healing our nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as Motrin or Aleve.

NSAIDs have been shown in animal models to delay fracture healing. Generally, the studies have found that healing is delayed when the medication is administered in very high doses, much higher than a typical patient would take. That said, in fractures that are particularly difficult to heal, your physician may recommend avoiding these medications.

Just as there are medications that can delay fracture healing, there are also some medications that may help to accelerate fracture healing. These medications include treatments for osteoporosis. People who have difficulty healing fractures may want to discuss with their physician if they should be taking specific types of medications to help with fracture healing.

A Word From Verywell

Sustaining a broken bone can be a frustrating experience. Waiting for the fracture to heal can be even a more frustrating experience. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to ensure the fracture heals as quickly as possible. Most often, common sense steps to take good care of your body will allow for rapid, effective fracture healing. In some situations, your doctor may be able to help advise you on some additional steps that can help to speed healing.

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