The rate of broken bones healing depends on a number of factors related to age, health status and lifestyle. On the average the outside bone, or cortical bone, will take up to 8 months to heal. The inside bone, also-called trabecular bone, needs up to 6 months to heal. But these numbers are only averages and broken bones healing can actually take much longer in some situations.
Bones go through a regular process called remodeling. Remodeling in adults is when new bones cells are added at the same rate old bone cells are removed. In children still growing, the new bone is added faster than the old bone is removed. That’s how bones grow. As people get older, the remodeling process can actually slow down and old bone is removed faster than new bone is created. The result is osteoporosis.
Keeping in mind the bone remodeling process, broken bones healing is significantly impacted by the age of the person. In children, bones will heal much faster as more new bone is delivered to the break site than is taken away. In adults, the rate of new bone increase is slowed which means a fracture will not heal as fast. In a person with osteoporosis, a fracture can be devastating because the body is unable to completely repair the break site in a timely manner.
Broken bones healing rates are also determined by the general health of an individual and his or her lifestyle. If you drink a lot of alcohol are have a vitamin D or calcium deficiency, bones will not heal as fast as they would normally. Smoking can affect bone strength by decreasing estrogen levels and affecting calcium absorption. Research has shown statistically that broken bone healing takes longer in people who smoke.
Sometimes broken bones healing can be slowed due to the impact certain medications have on bone remodeling. There are drugs that cause calcium to be lost through urine instead of absorbed by bones. In addition, some prescription medications can actually prevent new bone growth. These drugs include corticosteroids, hormone lowering drugs, thyroid medication and others. If you break a bone, its important to tell the doctor about all over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are taking.
A final factor which can impact broken bones healing is the presence of disease. Some diseases, such as Celiac disease, affect bone density and the ability of the body to do bone remodeling. If your kidneys or liver don’t function properly, the amount of calcium your body absorbs is diminished. There are many diseases and conditions which can affect the rates of broken bones healing.
Though the process of healing broken bones seems very straightforward, there are many factors which can impact how quickly bones are able to repair themselves.