If you’ve ever fractured or broken a bone, you know first-hand that it may take a long time to heal. Although recovery time is dependent upon things like age, fitness level, and severity of the injury, all bones go through the same healing process. This involves four complex stages which ultimately result in new bone forming and filling in the break. Underneath that cast that everyone is signing, the forces that go about healing fractures are hard at work. Let’s take a closer look.
Four Steps to Healing
- Inflammation - When a bone fractures, white blood cells move in, creating inflammation. That might seem like a bad thing, but in actuality, inflammation generates the growth of new blood cells, and that is the first step toward healing.
- Soft Callus - While blood cells divide and multiply, new blood vessels develop to fuel the healing process. In the meantime, cartilage starts to form around the fracture. This fibrous tissue, called a soft callus, begins bridging the gap in the bone.
- Hard Callus - This is when the soft callus begins to connect the bone fragments, becoming more solid and filling in the break with hard bone.
- Remodeling - The final stage is called remodeling and refers to the body replacing old bone with new, becoming compact, and improving strength and blood circulation.
Helping the Healing Process
While our bodies are going through the four stages of healing, doctors are able to assist in the repair. Sometimes surgery may be necessary to stabilize a fracture. Bones can be moved back into place and then immobilized with screws, plates, splints, or casts. Devices that use ultrasound may be used to stimulate bone growth. Of course, physical therapy is a key factor in regaining function and mobility as well.
You can help with healing fractures, too. A well-balanced diet provides the nutrition and energy healing bones need. Don’t smoke—it hinders the healing process. Take calcium supplements, get plenty of rest, and follow your doctor’s instructions. Most importantly, don’t put weight on your injury too soon.
When Healing Is Hindered
Like in any situation that involves healing, sometimes problems can arise. Severe injuries are most at risk. Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling causes so much pressure on the blood vessels that muscles surrounding the fracture do not get enough blood. This can cause the muscles to die, resulting in a long-term disability. Medical conditions like diabetes can also cause complications and lessen the body’s ability to heal. Other problems include infection, artery and nerve damage, post-traumatic arthritis, growth abnormalities, and alignment issues. Although these complications are rare, you should know that they do exist. Fortunately, Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can provide care and treatment to manage these problems if you do encounter them.
Healing fractures can be a long, and complex process. Let Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS help you through it. Call Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in Texas at (512) 328-8900 to make an appointment today. With our expertise, you’ll be on the road to recovery and out of that cast before you know it.