When you think of a broken bone and how it heals, you may envision a cast or possibly even a surgical procedure to stabilize the area. While stabilization of the broken bone is vitally important to proper healing and recovery of full function, the most remarkable work in bone healing is done behind the scenes, by the body itself.
The body begins the arduous process of healing the area within minutes of a fracture occurring. This process occurs even if the affected bone hasn’t yet been placed in a cast or stabilized with a splint or surgery, which makes it vitally important to seek immediate medical care if you think you may have a broken bone.
The first phase of bone healing is inflammation. The injured bone edges bleed into the area, causing a clot to form. This inflammatory process and clot formation forms the initial scaffolding for new bone to develop. The inflammatory phase of bone healing begins immediately after the fracture and continues for several days.
The second phase of bone healing is the formation of new bony tissue. This new tissue, or callus, is initially very soft and delicate in nature. The clot from the initial injury is replaced with fibrotic tissue and cartilage, and over the course of the next several weeks, transitions to a harder callus which is what we typically envision of bony tissue. This hard callus can be seen on x-ray within a few weeks following a fracture.
The third and final phase of bone healing is the remodeling phase. This is the longer-lasting process that involves the body fine-tuning the bulky, bony callus and compacting it down to the original shape of the bone before it was fractured. As circulation to the area improves and the bone begins to endure the stress of everyday movement, the bony callus begins to smooth and the area is returned to its pre-fracture density.
These three phases of bone healing can take a few weeks to several months, depending on your age, physical condition, and the area that has been fractured. It’s important to seek the advice of a qualified orthopedic specialist to treat and monitor the healing of a fracture. Sideline Orthopedics is pleased to be able to care for your injuries, from the time the injury occurs through the healing process and beyond. Contact us today at (540) 552-7133 for any orthopedic concerns you may have.