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View Full Version : Will fractured bones eventually heal themselves?


Hampshire
02-01-2011, 10:35 AM
If you fracture a small bone like a finger or toe and never have it looked at will it eventually heal itself?
I messed up my middle fingers bottom section by bowling of all things. It was painful if I pressed on it but nothing I couldn't live with. It's been about 3 weeks now and still hurts if I put any pressure on it.
If I just leave it alone will it heal itself?

dracoi
02-01-2011, 11:32 AM
Yes, it will.

I went to the doctor about ten years ago with multiple fractures in my big toe. They took some X-rays, then recommended ibuprofen, ice and rest. (Gee, like I didn't figure those out on my own). Didn't even give me a splint or anything.

It's worth that trip to the doctor to verify that you don't have a more serious problem, and to see if there's anything more they can do. It isn't such a big deal if a toe sets crooked (it did), but you don't want to lose any range of motion or dexterity in a finger.

Scubaqueen
02-01-2011, 11:37 AM
a mild fracture should heal without incident so long as you don't repeatedly aggravate it. i've broken many a toe and simply taped it to an uninjured toe and gone about my business.

problem is, that's your hand, not your foot, and subject to a lot more stress.

IANAD, but if it doesn't quit hurting, get it looked at.

Turek
02-01-2011, 11:49 AM
I hurt my hand about 18 months ago while on vacation out of the country. When I got back a week later, I went to the orthopedist and got an x-ray (http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2739/4109542885_2aec8465e0.jpg). Yep, it's broken, he said, but since it'd been a week and there didn't seem to be any movement in the bone, he didn't even cast it.

Leaffan
02-01-2011, 12:06 PM
Well, I hurt my hand in September and it still hasn't healed.

I slipped on my deck and caught myself from wiping out by thrusting my right arm down with a closed fist. The pain was very sharp but then started to fade. By the time I got up the next morning though I had to wash my hair using only my thumb and index finger on my right hand.

The top knuckle on my ring finger (the one next to the pinky) hasn't been the same since, although it does seem to be slowly getting better. It's been over four months and it's still a little swollen and sore.

Yeah, I should have it looked at. But it does seem to be getting marginally better with time. I just hope I can golf in 3 months!

Turek
02-01-2011, 12:11 PM
Well, I hurt my hand in September and it still hasn't healed.

I hear ya. On my x-ray there's two breaks. The one in the palm area, and an evulsion fracture at the base of my middle finger where the tendon pulled away a chip of bone. That still hurts and the tendons in my middle finger still hurt, at it's been since October of '09 when I injured it.

Al Bundy
02-01-2011, 12:13 PM
Small bones like the fingers or toes will normally heal with no intervention. Stress fractures, of course, don't need to be set or casted. I've had many breaks, but few treatments, and everything healed. I had a stress fracture of a metatarsal that I continued to run on until it completely broke. I duct taped the foot and stopped running on it until it healed in 2-3 weeks. However, there can be times when a break doesn't come together and even casting it doesn't produce a mend. Electrical stimulation may help faster healing. Sometimes surgical intervention is required.

Without medical review and treatment, a broken bone left to heal by secondary intention may heal improperly, that is, at an incorrect angle, that impedes proper use. I would not be too concerned with a toe or finger.

AshenLady
02-01-2011, 12:24 PM
Not necessarily. There are plenty of people who suffer from non-unions. These people need to use a medical electrical device invented by Carl Brighton, M.D., at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960-70's to help knit the broken bone together.

Qadgop the Mercotan
02-01-2011, 12:39 PM
Not necessarily. There are plenty of people who suffer from non-unions. These people need to use a medical electrical device invented by Carl Brighton, M.D., at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960-70's to help knit the broken bone together.
And even that device is quite often ineffective in non-union situations. Sometimes surgery, where the bone edges are abraded, bone from elsewhere is grafted in, then the fragments wired or bolted together can help get some solid healing, sometimes not so much.

Chronic non-unions can be tough. They tend to occur in bones that have inadequate blood flow to them, and are seen commonly in fractures of the scaphoid bone in the wrist.

But otherwise, most simple fractures heal. The question is more one of proper alignment; one likes for them to heal straight. So setting the bone and casting it to maintain proper alignment may be crucial, especiall for long bones and large joints.

Rumor_Watkins
02-01-2011, 12:41 PM
I think there's a difference between "heals itself" and "heals itself correctly"

aruvqan
02-01-2011, 12:56 PM
I stress fracture bones in my feet fairly frequently, and I am a klutz and break toes a lot. I broke a toe at the beginning of January as a matter of fact.

Back when I was an athlete, I broke things through accidents a lot. Getting thrown off a horse then stepped on by several more isn't fun but it can lead to a selection of broken bones, cuts, bruises and horrified looks from strangers and a nervous boyfriend who always seemed to get glared at by little old ladies. I was on a first name basis with my orthopods xray tech for a few years.:smack:

AshenLady
02-01-2011, 01:36 PM
And even that device is quite often ineffective in non-union situations. Sometimes surgery, where the bone edges are abraded, bone from elsewhere is grafted in, then the fragments wired or bolted together can help get some solid healing, sometimes not so much.

Chronic non-unions can be tough. They tend to occur in bones that have inadequate blood flow to them, and are seen commonly in fractures of the scaphoid bone in the wrist.

But otherwise, most simple fractures heal. The question is more one of proper alignment; one likes for them to heal straight. So setting the bone and casting it to maintain proper alignment may be crucial, especiall for long bones and large joints.


Not true, non-unions are not that unusual and people who have them suffer mightily. They come from every age group, and every background, color. For many people, electrical bone stimulation has been a life saver. It works for many but, as in medicine, not many things work for everyone.

USCDiver
02-01-2011, 02:22 PM
Not true, non-unions are not that unusual and people who have them suffer mightily. They come from every age group, and every background, color. For many people, electrical bone stimulation has been a life saver. It works for many but, as in medicine, not many things work for everyone.

Which part of the Good Doctor's post is not true? He describes my situation perfectly. I had a nonunion of my scaphoid that was repaired surgically with a screw and autograft from my pelvis that was still nonunion after 5 months in a cast. The electrical stimulator did nothing for me. I'm still nonunion now but that screw holds things together well enough to minimize pain although I do have reduced range of motion.

USCDiver, MD

Leaffan
02-01-2011, 02:31 PM
I hear ya. On my x-ray there's two breaks. The one in the palm area, and an evulsion fracture at the base of my middle finger where the tendon pulled away a chip of bone. That still hurts and the tendons in my middle finger still hurt, at it's been since October of '09 when I injured it.

Oh, yeah sure. Thanks for the reassurance! October 09! :eek:

Qadgop the Mercotan
02-01-2011, 02:35 PM
Not true
Yes, do tell. What part of my post is not true? :confused:

PoorYorick
02-01-2011, 02:43 PM
But otherwise, most simple fractures heal. The question is more one of proper alignment; one likes for them to heal straight. So setting the bone and casting it to maintain proper alignment may be crucial, especiall for long bones and large joints.
Are most MD's still taught to set bones, or do you have to go to an orthopedic surgeon these days? I remember as a kid, my old GP seemed to be able to do just about anything, including setting bones and minor surgery. It seems all my internist does these days is refer me to other doctors.

God, I sound like a curmudgeon, don't I?

Qadgop the Mercotan
02-01-2011, 02:46 PM
Are most MD's still taught to set bones, or do you have to go to an orthopedic surgeon these days? I remember as a kid, my old GP seemed to be able to do just about anything, including setting bones and minor surgery. It seems all my internist does these days is refer me to other doctors.

God, I sound like a curmudgeon, don't I?
I do simple casting and splinting. I did my residency in Family Medicine rather than Internal Medicine, so I got lots more ortho exposure. I've popped more than a few dislocated joints back into place also. But more complex stuff I'll send to the orthopod. If it needs re-alignment, I'd prefer someone who does it more regularly to make sure it's straight.

Yes, yes you do.