A fracture is a broken bone. Doctors will use different methods to repair bone fractures depending on their location, type, and severity.

Fractures can be complete or partial. Some require surgery or metal plates, while others may only need a brace.

Everyone who experiences a fractured bone will heal differently. The healing process will depend on the nature and extent of the injury, the stability of fracture fixation, and biological processes, so a proper healing process is crucial.

In this article, we look at how doctors treat bone fractures, the science behind three main stages of bone healing, and home remedies to speed up bone repair.

Person with cast or brace on fractured bones in hospital bed with doctor attending.
A doctor can ensure that a bone heals correctly.

If a person with a fractured bone does not get treatment from a doctor, there is a chance that the bone will heal in an unusual position.

One of the goals of treatment is to restore the normal anatomy so a doctor will manipulate and reset each part of the bone into its correct anatomic position.

People can have bone fractures with different degrees of severity, and while some may be minor, others can lead to serious complications.

No matter how severe a bone fracture is, a person should always see their doctor for treatment to avoid future complications, such as abnormal healing, loss of function, or bone weaknesses.

Other complications of improperly treated bone fractures include:

  • the formation of a blood clot in nearby blood vessels
  • infection from the injury
  • damage to the skin, tissues, or muscles around the fracture
  • swelling of a nearby joint due to bleeding into the joint space

If someone fractures a long bone, such as the thigh bone (femur), they might experience a severe complication called a fat embolism. Here, fat globules are released into the bloodstream and deposited in the lung capillaries, leading to respiratory distress. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

Depending on the type and location of the fractured bone, a doctor may recommend the following treatments:

Traditional cast

After repositioning the bone, doctors will typically immobilize the broken bone with a plaster or fiberglass cast. A cast will allow the bone to heal in the correct position.

Doctors often use casts to treat fractures in the leg, foot, arm, and wrist bones.

Functional cast or brace

A functional cast or brace differs from traditional cast immobilization in that it allows limited and controlled movement of nearby joints.

Usually, doctors put an initial cast on the limb with the broken bone and remove it after some time. Then, the doctor will put the limb in a functional brace, which allows its early movement and mobility.

Open reduction

When a person has a severe bone fracture, doctors may need to perform surgery to correct the break. In an open reduction procedure, doctors expose and reposition the bone by hand.

People may require open reduction if they have complex fractures or fractures that are unsuitable for treatment with a cast.

There are two kinds of open reduction:

Various supplements may help to promote bone fracture healing.

The best way to help bone fractures heal is to rest and limit the use of the injured limb.

Other methods a person can use to reduce healing time and speed up bone repair include the following:

Take protein supplements

As a large part of a bone is composed of protein, taking protein supplements can help the bone to rebuild and heal itself.

People with a protein deficit may develop a rubbery callus around the fracture instead of a solid callus.

Take antioxidants

Antioxidants remove free radicals that are generated by tissue damage. Because bone fractures cause tissue damage, taking antioxidant supplements may help with bone healing.

People can find antioxidants in supplements that contain vitamins E and C, lycopene, and alpha-lipoic acid.

Take mineral supplements

Bone is mostly composed of minerals, including calcium, silicon, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. People may find that their bone heals faster if they increase their intake of these minerals.

These supplements may speed up callus formation, increase the production of bone protein, and accelerate the bone healing process.

Take vitamin supplements

Vitamins are also essential for bone rebuilding as they promote most of the cellular processes and reactions that occur in bone.

Vitamins C, D, and K play vital roles in the fracture healing process. Vitamin B is essential for energy production.

Take herbal supplements

People can also use herbal supplements to speed fracture healing.

Some people say that Symphytum (comfrey), arnica, and horsetail grass are potentially helpful herbs. However, always use herbs with caution, as large amounts of these herbs can be toxic.

Exercise

Always speak to a doctor before using exercise as a way to speed up bone healing, as it will only be appropriate at certain stages of the healing process.

However, if performed under a doctor's supervision, exercise can improve blood flow to the injured site, help to rebuild muscle around it, and speed up bone fracture healing. Furthermore, some people may regain limb function through exercise.

Avoid smoking

People who smoke may experience delayed bone healing. Sometimes, this may lead to a situation where the bone does not heal and develops a non-union fracture or takes longer to heal.