How to Recover from a Bone Fracture
No matter the location and severity of a bone fracture, the recovery process is often painful, tiring, and frustrating. However, through a combination of rest, immobilization, following the orders of your doctor and pharmacist, and healthy dietary practice, you can streamline the recovery process.
Coping with a Fractured Bone
Give your fracture time to heal.Your body needs time to mend itself and create new bone; a fracture generally takes between 6 and 12 weeks to heal substantially.When healing, your bone will go through three stages:
- Inflammation: This process lasts for the first few days after a fracture. Local, internal bleeding and blood clotting provides bone stability and structure to allow bone regrowth.
- Bone Production: Your body will start to replace the clotted blood with soft cartilage tissue and, later with hard bone tissue.
- Bone Remodeling: This phase lasts several months to several years.Bone continues to form and solidify, and blood circulation returns to the formerly fractured area .
Take any prescribed medications regularly.If you've been prescribed home medication, follow all of the directions that were given to you by your doctor or your pharmacy. Also, be aware of the drugs’ side effects and possible interaction with other drugs. Inform your physician immediately if you experience severe side-effects.
Keep the fracture immobile as much as possible.Immobilization is a key step of allowing your fracture to heal; avoid lifting much weight with your fractured limb during the early stages of healing.Excessive movement and a lack of mobility will slow down the healing process, and can result in a bone that has healed incorrectly or without much structural strength.
Ask about the need for surgery.Some fractures will heal with immobilization and other therapies alone.However, surgery may be necessary to fully recover from a bone fracture in some cases. Talk to your doctor about your options if he or she has recommended a surgical procedure to mend your bone or to correct other problems. Surgery may be required to:
- remove bone fragments.
- stabilize the bone.
- stop blood loss.
- improve range of motion.
Resting a Fractured Bone
Attend or do therapy consistently.Physical therapy can be inconvenient or even painful, but it is essential in preventing muscle wasting. Therapy will increase the strength of the muscles which surround and encase your fractured bone; this process will speed up your recovery. In addition, follow-up medical appointments with an orthopedic specialist may be needed.
- Start physical therapy after you have been given permission by your orthopedist. Your orthopedist will usually do a followup x-ray to make sure that the fracture has healed and ensure that it is safe to begin therapy.
Watch out for possible signs of infection and other complications.There are multiple medical abnormalities that can result from a fractured bone, depending on the severity of the break and the age and general health of the individual.If you have any concerns about these problems, ask your doctor. These complications can include:
- Nonunion or malunion of the bone. Nonunion is when the bone cannot grow back together. Malunion is when the bone grows together improperly and requires surgical correction.
- Severe pain.
- Swelling or discoloration of the casted limb.
- Smelly discharges, and bleeding require you to seek medical help immediately.
- Blot clots. Symptoms of a blood clot may include a warm, red, painful swollen spot under your skin.Seek medical help right away if you think you might have a blood clot.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.Waiting for a fracture to heal can be a slow, frustrating, and at times painful process. You may need to ask friends, family, coworkers, and/or your partner to help you perform tasks that you could normally do on your own without a problem. In these instances, don’t hesitate to ask for help with issues such as:
- Walking up and down stairs.
- Typing on a computer or using your phone.
- Driving a vehicle.
- Brushing your teeth and other hygiene tasks.
Helping a Bone Heal as Quickly as Possible
Eat foods that are filled with calcium and vitamin D.Both calcium and vitamin D promote bone healing, so it is advisable to drink milk and consume other dairy products.These foods will strengthen your bones and speed up the healing process. If for some reason you do not eat dairy products, then increase your consumption of food products such as:
- Calcium-enriched orange juice
Avoid taking ibuprofen and aspirin.Although these drugs decrease pain and inflammation, less inflammation is not always better. Inflammation is a natural part of the fracture-healing process; healing bones need the extra blood circulation brought by inflamed tissues. Taking large amounts of aspirin and ibuprofen can lengthen the healing process by decreasing the amount of inflamed tissue around your fracture.To deal with the pain, try taking Tylenol (which doesn’t decrease inflammation) instead.
Exercise more.Although your fractured bone needs time to heal, and requires substantial immobility, this does not mean that you should not continue to exercise regularly.Exercise will increase circulation throughout your body—especially to the area of your bone fracture. Moderate exercise can also increase the strength of your healing bone, and allow it to heal more quickly than if you cut out exercise altogether. Your healing fracture is still delicate; before it fully heals, you should only exercise in ways and controlled environments that will not further damage your fracture.
- Talk with your your physician about when you can begin an exercise regimen and what exercises you can do.
Avoid behaviors or habits that can slow down bone healing.Avoiding physical therapy, not following your doctor’s orders, and mistreating your cast can all have negative effects on the speed of your fracture’s recovery.Also avoid activities like:
- Smoking (which decreases circulation)
- Placing weight on the fractured bone too soon.
- Poor nutrition.
- Excessive alcohol intake.
Return to regular activities.Once your fracture has fully healed, it’s time to start easing back into normal physical activity, including running, going to the gym, playing sports, etc. Make sure that you’ve consulted with your doctor and your physical therapist; fractures can take more or less time to heal based on factors like age, health, and diet.As you regain activities:
- Start slow and ease back into things, especially if your fracture left you relatively immobile for weeks or months.
- Through the recovery process, stay fit and keep a good mental attitude; wait for your fracture to fully heal before you engage in strenuous activity, and you’ll lower your chances of re-injury and have a successful recovery!
QuestionHow long does it take to recover from a bone fracture?Jonah RichardsonCommunity AnswerDepending on the severity of the break, where it's located, if surgery is required, and how you care for it, it can be anywhere from 6 weeks to a couple of years.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do about a fractured collarbone?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMake sure to stay still and go see a doctor if you have not done so already. If you went to a doctor and were diagnosed with a fractured collarbone, use the sling or cast that they give you until it heals.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can I do to heal a fractured patella faster?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMake sure you take all of the medicine your doctor gave you, and keep your knee relaxed and do not walk on it. If your doctor gave you a detachable splint to wear instead of surgery or a hard cast, be sure to wear that at all times. Be patient.Thanks!
QuestionHow long does a transverse fracture of the L1 and L2 hurt?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe pain usually subsides within a few weeks, but it depends on the severity of the fracture.Thanks!
QuestionAre there any special treatments for a hairline fracture to the fibula?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe same advice here will work for the fibula. Rest and follow your doctor's orders!Thanks!
QuestionI have a shattered pelvis and both femurs are broken, but bones are healing too fast. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should probably see a doctor or other medical professional. Something like this not healing right could be serious.Thanks!
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- Learn to use your walking-aid. Generally you'll be taught to position yourself, sit, stand, and walk with it before you are discharged.
- Keep your cast in good condition. After being discharged from the hospital for fracture treatment, chances are you'll be going home with a cast. It is very important that this cast stays and does not get broken. Be careful around water and keep your cast as dry as possible.
- Be mindful of your posture and body mechanics when using canes, crutches, or walkers. This is important to avoid accidents and further injury to yourself.
- Be careful and know your limits. Do not strain yourself too hard, especially if you are still recovering from a bone fracture. Avoid putting stress on the affected area.
- Don't be too hard on your self when you have a fractured bone. Go to the doctor first.
- Be wary of medication side-effects and drug interactions.
- Watch out for infections and other complications.
- Use canes, crutches, and walkers carefully and as instructed.
- If your cast is made of Plaster of Paris, avoid getting it wet. Also, for the first two days of wearing the cast do not put stress over it as Plaster of Paris takes a bit to dry.
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