Having a fracture can be very stressful and quite troublesome as it can affect your life in more ways than one. However, fractures are quite common as millions and millions of them happen every year in the United States alone. They can be caused by a number of reasons, usually sports injuries, falls, osteoporosis, and car accidents, and although most of them are in fact caused by trauma, some of them can have a different underlying reason, such as a disease (cancer, osteoporosis, etc.)
Fractured bones are diagnosed usually through an X-ray, however, sometimes an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan (computed tomography scan), or a bone scan is needed. Most commonly though, a simple X-ray will be enough.
As treatment goes, bone fractures are usually treated with a splint or a cast. When you break a bone you need to immobilize it in order to promote the healing process. The bones must be set in place so as they can grow back properly to prevent future issues with motor abilities. A bone has to be aligned, or, alternatively, if the bone is small (such as toe or finger bones) simple wrapping immobilization is enough as they heal easier than the big ones.
If, however, a fracture is severe, a surgery might be needed. When it comes to hip and collarbone fractures, patients are usually required to go under the knife, since healing by immobilization would take a long time and have poor results. At times, a surgeon may insert a metal rod or pin to hold the bones in place and allow them to align in order to grow back properly.
How Long Does the Healing Last?
When it comes to healing a fractured bone, as always, that varies greatly from person to person and from injury to injury. Depending on how bad the fracture is and in which body part it occurred, the recovery process may last from three weeks to longer than three months.
If a fracture occurred in the weight bearing bones such as legs, you might take longer to recover, as these bones are large and take a lot of pressure every day due to walking or standing. The general range for most fractured bones is about four weeks, but that amount of time is enough only for the bone to heal itself and put itself back together. It might take longer to actually use the body part where you’ve fractured the bone and even longer to get back to doing sports or other physical activities.
In order for the healing to begin, some requirements must be met. You must have an intact blood supply to the injured area, meaning that your circulation should be unobstructed. Next, you will need to immobilize the area whether with a cast or internal fixation. Finally, you must make sure to prevent all infections so your body can have a clear path to healing.
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When the recovery process commences, within first two weeks the granulation tissue will be formed between the fragments. Within four to sixteen weeks a callus will form and at this stage, a bone is usually considered to be pretty much healed. However, the healing process is not over yet, as the actual healing can last for up to several years, which means that you should be careful not to injure the same spot again, as the next fracture will heal a lot slower than the first one.
When it comes to different body parts, average healing times can span from three to ten weeks. For finger fractures, the average healing time lasts about three weeks, metacarpal bones take four to six weeks, wrist fractures take four to six weeks as well, and lower arm will heal in eight to ten weeks. Humerus, a bone that runs from your shoulder to your elbow will need six to eight weeks to get back to normal, femur will need a little more than twelve weeks, and tibia, the bone that goes from your knees to your ankles will take about ten weeks to heal.
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Generally, younger people will take less recovery time, and older and osteoporosis affected patients will take more, however, no matter how young or old you are, you should always make sure to promote the healing by keeping a healthy diet and not drinking and smoking. Getting enough calcium will also help, and you can get it from foods such as milk, eggs, yogurt, brown rice, rye, broccoli, spinach, kale, chickpeas, almonds, tofu, and black beans.
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