Bone healing is the process by which bones repair from fractures and bruising. In most cases, bone tissue is self-healing, and repairs itself by generating new tissue cells and blood vessels; the new tissue is able to knit itself into the ends of the original bone to reform a new and complete unit. In cases of broken bones, if the break is not set properly, the tissue may connect unevenly and result in permanent damage and irregular bone growth. Bone fractures are typically classified as complete, which indicates a complete break, or greenstick, which is when the bone is cracked but not completely broken. A comminuted fracture is when the bone is broken or crushed in more than one place, and bone healing for this type of injury often takes much more time.
In many instances of a complete fracture, it is necessary to splint or apply a cast to the broken bone to ensure even cell repair. A splint is used to partially immobilize and support the bone during the bone healing process. Rod-like in structure, splints are usually made of steel or fiberglass, and are usually secured to the injured area by using Velcro® straps. A cast is typically made of plaster that wraps completely around the injured bone to support and immobilize it from all sides. The duration of treatment for both casts and splints varies according to the severity of the break and the location of the bone within the skeletal structure.
Not all bone fractures require casts or splints in order to heal. Due to the location within the body, some bones, such as those that make up the rib cage, are usually left to heal on their own. When it is not possible or practical to cast or splint broken bones, doctors may choose other methods to offer support and help reduce stress during healing. They may wrap the area in support bandaging and recommend restricted mobility. In many cases, bones that are not splinted or cast may take longer to heal, so prescription pain medication may be given for extended periods.
Bone healing often takes many weeks to complete, but in some cases, the cellular repair can be expedited by incorporating calcium-rich foods into the daily diet. Some foods rich in calcium are dairy products, dark green vegetables, and soybeans. In addition, some seafood such as salmon and sardines are also considered excellent natural sources of calcium.