Broken Bone Recovery: How to Heal Quickly

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Patient in arm sling
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When you break a bone, all you can think about is how to heal it quickly so you can recover normal function. The way in which bone heals itself is the same for every fracture, but the time required for bone to fully heal can vary greatly, depending on the severity of the fracture, age of the person, co-existing medical conditions, and lifestyle factors like smoking and diet. If you experience a fracture, here are a few ways to help a broken bone to heal faster.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

The most important thing you can do to heal a broken bone is follow the instructions of your orthopedic surgeon or other healthcare provider. These professionals will provide you with a personalized treatment plan for your broken bone that gives you the fastest route to recovery, so you can get back to normal life.

Your fracture treatment plan will vary, depending on the location and severity of the break. For example, broken femur recovery (thigh bone fracture) can take six months or longer, while the healing time for broken ribs may be only a few weeks.

A few common elements of a broken bone treatment plan that you should adhere to closely include:

  • Assistive devices: Use the crutches, cane, scooter, or other assistive device provided by your orthopedic surgeon at all times until you’re told otherwise, as these devices ensure you don’t apply too much stress on the fracture.
  • Immobilization: Wear your brace, sling, boot, or splint at all times specified by your provider, because immobilizing the fracture can speed the healing timeline—and, in some cases, such as with broken collarbone recovery, keeping the fracture immobilized may help you avoid a surgical repair.
  • Incision care: If your fracture required a surgical repair, care for your incision as specified by your provider, because a skin infection can quickly turn into an infection of the bone that delays healing.
  • Medication review: Some common prescription medications and supplements can impair bone healing, so provide your orthopedic surgeon with a complete list of the medications and supplements you take.
  • Pain management: Avoid taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications for pain relief unless your provider tells you it’s OK, as these medications can delay bone healing.
  • Physical therapy: If your provider recommends physical therapy to help your fracture heal quickly, attend your sessions and perform your exercises on the specified schedule.
  • Weight-bearing limitations: Do not “test out” your foot or leg to see if it can hold up your body weight until your provider tells you it’s OK to do that, because you can delay the bone healing process or even re-fracture the bone.

Stop using nicotine.

Nicotine impairs the bone healing process, whether you take it in through smoking tobacco, using a nicotine patch or gum, or using an e-cigarette with a fluid that contains nicotine. People who use nicotine experience a significantly higher rate of slow or incomplete healing of fractures. Talk to your orthopedic surgeon or primary care provider for help to stop using nicotine in order to speed your bone’s healing.

Make lifestyle changes to help broken bones heal quickly.

Besides quitting nicotine, you can adopt a few other healthy habits that might help your fracture heal more quickly. You can:

  • Consume more dairy products. Calcium is essential for bone repair, so increase your intake of dairy products to make sure your body receives enough calcium to heal your fracture. Do not take a calcium supplement without your healthcare provider’s approval.
  • Eat more citrus fruit. Vitamin C plays a vital role in tissue healing, so increasing your intake of this vitamin from food sources might aid your bones in repairing themselves faster. With your provider’s permission, you might also take a vitamin C supplement.
  • Eat more protein. Increase your intake of lean proteins like fish and poultry to provide your body with adequate amounts of protein to help your bone heal faster.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium more easily, which can speed fracture healing. Do not take a vitamin D supplement unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so.
  • Increase healthy movement. Good blood circulation allows bones and the surrounding tissues to heal more quickly, so engage in as much heart-healthy movement as you can during your recovery—while taking care to protect the fracture from injury.

If you follow your treatment plan, stop using nicotine, and engage in healthy lifestyle practices, you’ll find your fracture has healed up in no time—allowing you to get back to your normal, active life again.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 21
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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