How Can You Help Your Healing Fracture?
Fractures are one of the leading diagnoses that are treated on a daily basis. One of the most frequently asked questions of new patients is “How long will it take to heal?” The answer depends on several different factors. All bones heal in a similar fashion, whether surgically cut or fractured by injury. The bone healing process has 3 overlapping stages.
Inflammation: Starts immediately, there is bleeding at the site of fractures which leads to inflammation and blood clotting.
Bone Production: Clotted blood is replaced with fibrous tissue and cartilage (soft callus); as healing progresses, it turns into hard callus (visible on x-ray several weeks after fracture).
Bone Remodeling: Bone continues to form and becomes compact; returning to its original shape (goes on for several months).
Speed and success of healing varies among individuals. Many factors can affect bone healing, such as type of fracture, the age of the patient, underlying medical conditions, and nutrition status. Generally 6-8 weeks is adequate time for a fracture to heal. Your doctor will determine when you have reached that state.
So, what can you do? You can not change your medical history or turn back the hands of time. Your best line of defense is through nutrition and avoiding activities that can slow or interfere with the healing process. Protein, calcium, vitamin C and D are necessary to heal broken bones. Proteins are building blocks that help the body grow and repair itself. They can be found in chicken, fish, dairy products, soybeans (complete proteins) and in grains, seeds, nuts, beans and vegetables. Calcium is a well-known nutrient that plays an important role in a variety of essential functions, including bone and teeth formation, as well as the healing of broken bones. Examples of foods high in calcium are milk, broccoli, turnip greens, non-fat yogurt, bok choy, soy beans, tofu, okra, cooked spinach, oranges, raisins, and peanut butter. Vitamin C can be found in broccoli, tomato, papaya, mango, kiwi, and baked potatoes. Vitamin D is supplied with sun exposure, cod liver oil, canned salmon, sardines, tuna, fortified cereals, and eggs. Avoid the use of alcohol, caffeine (limit intake if unable to give it up), fast foods, and smoking (chewing tobacco and nicotine patch use included). All of these chemicals can cause a significant loss of calcium and delay the speedy healing of broken bones. Too much protein (or too little) and too much fat, salt and sugars can actually rob the body of calcium. Soft drinks contain a large amount of phosphorus that can deplete calcium reserves. Most importantly, follow your therapist’s and doctor’s advice for appropriate exercise with respect to your healing process. And always consult your doctor before increasing your intake of any nutrient or changing you diet in any way.