How the Body Helps Bones Heal
Breaking a bone is never a fun experience, but it is something many people have experienced in their lives. It might have been a childhood accident or perhaps an automobile crash, but the first thing most people do is go to the doctor. You might not know it, but even before you go see a doctor, you body has already started the healing process.
Many think that bone is a solid mass of non-living matter , but this is not the case. Bones are actually made up of many constantly changing cells and tissues that is constantly changing the structure of the bones. This is important to remember, because the same cells and tissues that help maintain the bone, also help it to heal.
One of the first things that happens when a bone is broken is the forming of a fracture hematoma. This is a type of blood clot that forms around the bone. The hematoma works sort of like a cast to hold the bone in place so it can eventually heal. The hematoma also cuts off the flow of blood to the edges of the fracture, which will cause the bone around the fracture to die. As it dies, it will be replaced and removed. Cells called osteoclasts help break down the bone and osteoblasts help rebuild it. This also causes inflammation and swelling around the fracture.
After a few days, the fracture hemotoma begins to form into a stronger tissue called a callus. Collagen, which is the principal protein found in connective tissue and bone, is produced by cells that are called fibroblasts. As the collagen is produced, cartilage begins to fill in the gap between the fracture. This cartilage is called fibrocartilage and forms a tough callus, which will last about three weeks.
The fibrocartilage callus, which fills in the space between the broken bones, is then transformed into bone cells. This transformation, which is caused by osteoclasts and osteoblasts, helps to form a protective callus around the bone . This callus, called a bone callus, forms a shell around the bone and protects and stabilizes it during the final stage of healing.
The healing process can take months as osteoplasts and osteoblasts remove the dead pieces of bone and rebuild it. As the cells rebuild the bone, the body repositions it and slowly the calluses are broken down and replaced with solid bone. Blood eventually begins to flow in the bone again, brining nutrients, such as calcium, to help strengthen the bone.
While much of the work done to help rebuild the bone is done by the body, medical attention is usually needed. This helps the bone heal in a normal, healthy, and safe position. Often only a cast is used to hold the bone in place as the body works, but in some cases surgery is needed.