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What Is Involved in Healing a Fracture?

Casts are often used to treat bone fractures.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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The process of healing a fracture starts almost immediately after the injury occurs. The bone and the surrounding tissues that were damaged will experience blood clotting that will lead to swelling. The duration of this stage can vary depending on the severity of the injury. The bone then enters the reparative stage, during which new cells are formed to repair the bone and surrounding tissue. As time passes, another stage of healing begins, in which the new bone growth begins to contour itself to the original, undamaged bone.

Healing a fracture can take a significant amount of time, depending on the severity of the injury. Some minor fractures will heal within a few weeks' time, while others may take several months to completely heal. Healing time can be increased if surrounding tissues such as muscles or ligaments are damaged, and healing a fracture can become a complex process if nerve damage has occurred. Other complications, including compartment syndrome, may prevent complete healing indefinitely. This syndrome occurs when surrounding muscle tissues cannot get enough blood during the healing process, leading to the death of muscle tissue. Long term disability may result from this condition.

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The injured person will need to have the bone immobilized during the process of healing a fracture. Minor fractures may be wrapped with a bandage, while more severe fractures will probably require a hard shell cast. The affected area of the body should be rested, and the injured person should make an effort to reduce usage of that area as much as possible throughout the day. Elevating the injured area will also help prevent swelling and pain. The RICE treatment can be used in the early stages of the injury; RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This will help reduce swelling and pain, and will help promote healing quickly.

Long-term treatment for healing a fracture may include taking medications that reduce swelling and pain, and physical therapy. The muscles, ligaments, and bones will have weakened during the healing process, and they will need to be re-strengthened for regular use once the bone has healed sufficiently. This process will usually take place in a controlled environment under the guidance of a professional physical therapist who is trained to create rehabilitation plans for specific types of injuries. This phase of recovery may not be started until several weeks or months after the injury occurs; the severity of the injury and the overall health of the injured person will dictate when the therapy process can begin.

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