How Do Broken Bones Heal?

Getting a broken bone is never a fun experience. While the human skeleton is strong, it cannot withstand certain weights, angles and collisions. Most people will have at least one bone breakage in their lifetime, more if they participate in sports or extremist hobbies, but what is happening on the inside of our bodies when a bone is broken? It might not be easy to imagine but the human body’s ability to repair and heal is always a point of fascination for the medical community.

To begin, there are classifications for different kinds of breaks. Some breaks can be fatal such as breaks at the neck vertebrae or in the skull. Others can be so small that they aren’t even recognized. Doctors refer to the breakage of a bone as a “fracture” and organize different fractures by the degree of damage and shape of the break.

First they are classified into three main groups: stress, impact and pathological fractures. Stress fractures occur when the bone has been made to withstand too much pressure. Over time, the bone cannot support the pressure and fractures. This is a common for professional athletes who create intense stress on their body for long periods of time. An impact fracture usually occurs when too much weight or pressure has been placed on a bone, like a car accident or a fall. Pathological fractures occur when a person has a condition that causes weakening of the bones. In these instances, normal or slightly strenuous activities cause the bones to break, conditions like osteoporosis or brittle bone disease can make bones fragile and fractures common.

A “greenstick” fracture is a fracture on one side of the bone but not the other. A “complete” fracture refers to a break of a bone into two pieces. A “hairline” fracture means a small but noticeable break in the bone. A “comminuted” fracture means that the bone has been broken in more than one area or crushed. A “bowing” fracture is something that can only happen to children but it is when the bone bows instead of breaks, it is still incredibly painful. Finally, an “open” or “compound” fracture refers to when the bone has come through the skin and can be seen.

There are also fractures that refer to the shape of the fracture like “oblique” fractures which are diagonal fractures across the bone. “Spiral” fractures refer to a break when both halves of a bone are twisted. What is the most commonly broken bone? The clavicle or collarbones. What is the strongest bone in the body? The femur or leg bone is the strongest as well as the longest.

Depending on the kind of fracture one has or one’s pain tolerance levels, most fractures are typically quite painful. The brain is rushing signals of dopamine to begin repairing the damage and adrenaline to keep one alert through the pain. If a limb bone is broken, keep it elevated. This will stop the blood flow to the break. Next, keep the area as still as possible until medical attention can arrive.

Once at a hospital or a medical imaging facility, doctors will likely use X-rays to determine the kind of fracture that has occurred and to make sure the fracture is posing no other internal risk.

X-rays are the oldest method of medical imaging but they are still necessary for treatment. X-rays use radioactive materials to take images of the skeletal structure of the body. While some facilities may be the using the traditional and outdated forms of X-rays, Doctors Imaging only uses advanced digital X-ray capabilities. This allow Doctors Imaging to have clearer images, in turn helping doctors perform better aftercare and make more accurate diagnosis.

Once the fracture has been identified, the bone may need to be set and casted. For some breaks, setting the bone is painful but not difficult. For shattered or joint breaks, sometimes surgery is necessary because the bones need to be fused with a metal pin, that will be adjusted periodically to help repair the bones to their original state.

If you have more questions about bone fractures and their treatment, please visit our X-ray Service Page. If you need to make an appointment for an X-ray, you can fill our Book an Appointment request or call our offices at 504-833-8111 to speak to a representative of Doctors Imaging.

Avoiding Bone Cancer and Maintaining Bone Density

Our bones are our foundation and yet so many forget their importance. Despite their high importance to the body, bones can be fragile. They can be easily fractured, broken, moved out of place and can lose their density with age, disease and lifestyle choices. One major concern for the bones is the development of bone cancer.

Bone cancer is not a common cancer. Bone cancer affects about 3,000 people a year but if caught early enough and the patient does not have other health concerns, the five year survival rate for bone cancer is about 70%. Cancer can begin in almost any bone which means that having immediate check-ins with your doctors and X-rays where you have symptoms is the best way to make sure that you do not have to suffer through advanced bone cancer.

Bone density is another major concern for doctors because so many people participate in density-depleting activities and do not give their bone health the attention they deserve. Your bones are the foundation for your body, what you use to move and function in our daily lives. Sure lots of people know that calcium is good for your bones. But did you know that your body stops acquiring calcium after 30 years of age? And for women this can occur even earlier and have a higher effect because of breast-feeding. Smoking cigarettes not only destroys your lungs but it eradicates much of the calcium out of your bones. Excessive drinking is also disruptive to the calcium in your bones as well as high consumptions of soft drinks.

One of the best things you can do to promote bone health is physical exercise along with drinking milk or taking an everyday calcium supplement. Another great way to keep your bones in tip-top shape is focusing on your nutrition. Foods like yogurt, broccoli and spinach are all great for building strong bones and maintaining as much calcium as possible. Avoid soft drinks and energy drinks as well. Excessive caffeine can be detrimental to bone health. Sodas contain high levels of phosphate which binds to calcium in the digestive tract and reduces the amount of much-needed calcium that is absorbed. Then calcium is released into the bloodstream to balance the amount of acid caused by phosphates in the bloodstream.

Bone health is a concern for both men and women. Because the body reaches it maximum bone density in the mid to late 20s, once that time has passed it becomes much more difficult to incorporate calcium back into the bones. Women begin losing bone mass after menopause has begun at a fast rate and because men have more of the hormone testosterone so they also begin losing bone mass but  later. Testosterone can be damaging to the body, especially to bone density, which is why men who take testosterone supplements should be very aware of the potential risks both now and in the future.

Keeping your bones healthy should be one of your highest concerns, you are going to need them for a long, long time. So be sure that you pay attention to your nutrition, lifestyle choices and get X-rays performed if you are concerned about bone cancer or your bone density.

There is no need to set up a specific appointment if you just need an X-ray. Just come by with your doctor’s order. You can visit the X-ray Services Page of Doctors Imaging or you can call our offices at 504-833-8111.