Education: How Do Broken Bones Heal?
If you’ve ever broken a bone, you know you’ll need to wear a cast for about two months while your bone heals. But have you ever thought about what goes on inside your that cast? Read on to learn how bones heal.
Why Do Bones Break?
Your bones are strong, but they’re also lightweight and somewhat flexible. That is, they have a little bit of give when pressure is applied. But too much pressure or pressure that is applied suddenly will cause bones to break. Fortunately, bones can heal themselves naturally.
Why Do You Wear a Cast?
Casts keep your bone in the correct position as it heals and grows back together. Without a cast, the bone could heal incorrectly and be set an awkward angle which could need to be surgically repaired by an orthopedic surgeon.
How Do Bones Heal?
In the center of a bone is a system of channels that resemble a honeycomb. These channels provide the blood supply bones need to live. Surrounding the channels are the cortex and the periosteum, the very hard outer layer of bone.
When a fracture occurs, the channels are broken which results in a good deal of bleeding. Therefore, blood clots form around the broken area to stop the fractured fragments from bleeding. You body will eliminate tiny pieces of broken bone and fragments from the body.
Next, a spongy material called cartilage fills the gap between the two fractures. Blood vessels begin to regrow between the two sides and “woven bone” appears on the outermost layer of bone. The cartilage is eventually replaced by woven bone and the fractures are eventually united as woven bone continues to grow.
How Long Does it Take?
The location of a broken bone determines how long it takes to heal. Bones in your upper extremities generally take about six weeks to heal. Bones in your legs need around 12 weeks to heal. In some cases, bones can take up to a year to completely heal themselves.
How Do You Know if a Bone Is Broken?
If you trip and fall or hurt yourself playing sports, it can be difficult to determine if your bone is broken or if the tendons sprained. Read how to tell the difference between a wrist sprain and a broken wrist on our blog.
If you think you might have a broken bone, it’s important to get in touch with an orthopedic surgeon who can help your bone heal properly.