Essential Stability: The Three Stages of Bone Healing
Fracturing a bone can be an overwhelming experience. After visiting a doctor for treatment, what follows is weeks and sometimes months of immobility for that area of your body to give it time to repair and regrow.
The most familiar companion to a fractured bone is the brace or cast affixed to support it. Common fractures usually use a traditional cast, either plaster or fiberglass, to let the bone heal in the proper position. A functional cast might replace the initial cast after some time which allows for some mobility while keeping the area steady.
On the other hand, open reduction describes the treatment of severe bone fractures where applying casts is unsuitable. Surgery is required to expose the bone and reposition the break. Special screws or plates are then fastened internally or externally for extra support.
Whichever method is used, the healing process will still depend on the stability of that fracture fixation. Afterward, it's up to the body's natural biological healing to take place.
Three Stages of Bone Healing
1. Inflammatory phase
Also called fracture hematoma formation, this is the first stage of bone healing that occurs after the injury takes place. Approximately 48 hours after the injury, a study explains that at this point the blood vessels torn by the fracture release blood which then begins to clot.
This forms what is called a fracture hematoma. The inflammatory stage typically ends a week after the fracture. Some bone cells around the fracture die as a result of the disruption of blood flow to the bone.
2. Repairing phase
The second phase, or the reparative phase, already starts within the first few days after the bone fracture. It's during this phase that the body creates cartilage and tissue in and around the location of the fracture. This continues for about 2-3 weeks.
Tissue gradually forms a soft collar by the broken ends of the bones until the two ends meet. These "calluses" help stabilize the fracture. Eventually, the trabecular bone, a slightly firmer callus made of spongy bone, will replace the softer tissue callus.
3. Bone remodeling
The final stage of bone healing is the remodeling phase which typically starts 6 weeks after the injury. Finally, a solid bone will replace the spongy trabecular bone and conclude the repairing process. The outer area of the bone may appear swollen in an X-ray for some time but this too will heal eventually.
During and After Recovery
Bone fractures heal for an average of 6-8 weeks. This can vary depending on the fracture site and severity of the break. A diet rich in protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin D will help to speed up the process.