A bone fracture, which is also known as a broken bone, is a situation that changes the shape of the bone. Bone fractures commonly happen when there is a high force or an impact put on a bone, and the bone cannot handle the force. Fractures are a common injury can be caused by many things. People break their bones in common sports injuries, severe car accidents, or hard falls.
Even though generally bone fractures are affected by strain, bone fractures can be “pathologic” or caused by an underlying illness such as severe cancer or serious osteoporosis. Fractures that occurred to older people are usually caused by osteoporosis, which comes along with aging.
Fractures Can Heal on Its Own—with Possible Side Effects
To answer your question: yes, bone fractures can heal on its own. Just like other injuries, medical treatment is needed instantly after a bone is broken. However, our body has its own healing function. Even without treatment, fractures can heal on its own, although the process is slower and may bring several risks or side effects.
Basically, a fractured bone healing process goes through a set of phases until the new bone shapes and fills in the fractured area. Medical treatment makes the healing process faster, and helps from medical professionals help your fractures healing free of risks and complication.
How Does a Bone Fracture Heal?
To completely heal, the fractures go through four phases: inflammation, soft callus, hard callus, and bone remodeling.
Phase 1: Inflammation
Inflammation occurs as soon as your bone is fractured. In this first phase, bleeding may occur soon after the bone is broken. Bleeding that comes from the broken bone and nearby tissue makes the fractured area swell. It generally will last for 2 to 3 weeks. During this first phase, surrounding areas will swell and it will also be painful.
Phase 2: Soft callus
This second phase happens after 2 or 3 weeks after the injury. In this phase, the pain and swelling will lessen. However, the site of the bone fracture thickens and new bone starts to form. This new bone is soft and not solid enough so that it won’t even be visible with x-rays. Depending on the severity of the fractures, this second stage can last up to 8 weeks after the injury.
Phase 3: Hard callus
This third phase happens after 4 or 8 weeks of the injury. In this phase, the latest bone starts to connect the fractures. At this point, the newly formed bones are hard enough to be checked by x-rays. After 8 up to 12 weeks following the injury, this latest bone will have completed the bone fracture.
Phase 4: Bone remodeling
This last phase occurs after 8 or 12 weeks after the injury. From this point on, the fracture site transforms itself. The fracture site corrects any malformations that may continue as a result of the injury.
This last phase of broken bone healing process can last up to some years. The rate of the healing process and the capability to transform a broken bone are varied from person to person, and from fracture to fracture. It depends on their age, health, the type of fracture, the severity of fracture, and the bone affected. For instance, kids will heal and remodel their bone fractures faster than adults.
Problems That May Occur During the Healing Process
If the bone fracture is serious, problems that slow the fractured bone healing process can happen. These problems are more likely to occur if the fractures do not get medical treatment from professionals.
Open fractures can be infected if the pointed bone ends are unprotected from the air. Medical treatment by doctors and professionals can prevent this from happening. They usually give antibiotics to the injured area and protect the fractures with casting to avoid the risks.
2. Compartment syndrome
It is a serious swelling after a bone fracture that can press the blood vessels. As a result, there is barely adequate blood that can get to the muscles surrounding the bone fracture. The reduced blood supply may affect the muscles around the fracture. It may cause the muscles to die and lead to long-term disability. Compartment syndrome frequently happens after a serious injury.
3. Neurovascular injury
Some fractures are in a very serious condition so that the arteries and nerves around the fractures are damaged. The condition may cause limitations in mobility. The condition can be treated with the help of physical therapists.
4. Growth abnormalities
It occurs when a bone fracture is found in the open physis, or in the growth plate. When happened to a kid, it may cause early partial or complete closure of the physis. It means that one side of the bone or the whole bone is not growing anymore. If one side of the bone stops growing, the bone will grow at an anomalous angle. And if the whole bone is not growing, it will be smaller than the other bone.
5. Posttraumatic arthritis
It happens when the bone fractures spread into the joints or bone fractures, thus affecting the bones to encounter at an irregular angle in the joint. The condition can lead to early arthritis of a joint.
It is a condition where bone fracture does not heal in a standard arrangement. The condition may lead to some kind of bone deformity that will hinder the growth of the bone.
The condition happens when the fracture is not successfully settling in a realistic amount of time. If this happens, your doctor needs to re-examine your fractures in order to administer further treatment.
8. Delayed union
Delayed union simply means that the bone fracture takes longer time to settle than expected, which means that you need to undergo longer treatment.
NOTE: although a bone fracture can heal on its own, it is highly recommended to seek help from doctors. In some serious cases, bone fractures even require surgery. Be advised to always seek medical help from professionals only.