We recently looked at why injuries seem to take longer to heal as we age. Theories include that our cellular pathways become overloaded with information, which prevents our cells from dividing efficiently; that our inflammatory responses change, and that we either get too much or not enough inflammation; or that certain chemical changes, such as to our level of hormones, could impede our ability to heal.
If a broken bone is left untreated, the pain can worsen as time goes on, although the real issue is the risk of improper healing, which can lead to a whole host of other problems, such as visible protrusions, limited mobility, misalignment, and infection. For these reasons, it is crucial to take the proper steps after sustaining a fracture in order to avoid any future complications.
The healing of a broken bone, which is the same as a fracture despite common misconceptions, takes place over three stages. The first, the inflammation stage, begins almost instantly. A blood clot forms to carry white cells to the affected area and begin the healing process, followed quickly by cytokine, a secretion of the immune system that provides the building blocks for the area that needs to be repaired.
The reparative stage begins roughly two weeks later. During this stage, the materials produced by the cytokine begin to form a soft callus. This is a spongy material that does the job in filling the gap left by the fracture, but is still a far cry from being a fully healed bone. During this stage, the soft callus is extremely vulnerable to outside forces, and there is a high likelihood of reinjury if the area does not receive enough rest.
The final stage is the remodeling stage, which involves the soft callus being slowly turned into a hard callus, through the release of compounds such as calcium. The length of time it takes to fully heal will vary depending on factors such as age, severity of the injury, and overall physical health, but this final stage typically takes between 6 and 12 weeks to complete.
Although rest is an important part of the healing process for fractures, you can still make an effort to help yourself heal faster. The good news is that one way you can accomplish this is by eating more. Since the healing process requires energy, you’ll want to increase your normal calorie intake to make sure you have sufficient energy. The more serious the extent of your injuries, the more energy you’ll need, although you shouldn’t see this as an opportunity to go completely crazy.
What you eat is of course very important, and two of the most fundamental things you can consume are protein and calcium, as these are some of the most fundamental building blocks of healthy bones. You can bolster this by increasing your Vitamin C intake, as Vitamin C helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that can help tackle free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage cells and slow down the healing process.
But as the bones are comprised of about 70% minerals, it is important to take in more than just calcium. zinc, copper, phosphorus, and silicon will also help the healing process. These can all be easily found in foods you probably eat every day anyway. Meat, shellfish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and beans are all good sources of the aforementioned minerals, so focusing on these foods should help you to easily get the extra nutrients you need.
While there are things you can do to help heal a broken bone, in comparison to other health problems, there is a lot of waiting around. One of the most important steps in healing a broken bone is making sure you do not allow yourself to become impatient and resume stressful physical activity too soon. This could not only result in undoing the progress you’ve made, but could cause your condition to become even worse than it was. It can be a slow process, but it’s one you’re better off getting right the first time, so your best course of action really is to sit down, put your legs up, and tuck in.