Helping broken bone to heal?

Three weeks ago I fractured the ulna in my left arm. Because was an open wound I spent a week in hospital on IV antibiotics before they would set it. I now have a plate and pins and a splint to stop me rotating my forearm.

I’m getting terrific medical care, but my surgeons are more concerned with repairing what is apparently a very fragile fracture, than with the “soft stuff” around nutrition and emotional healing.

My splint will be on for another five weeks and I wondering if there’s anything I can do in terms of diet or otherwise to help myself heal? There is still a lot of swelling and obviously soft tissue and muscle damage, so my left hand doesn’t work well.

I know that I need to eat well, which is a bit of a struggle since I’m still on antibiotics and they’re really depressing my appetite and I’ve got little interest in food. I’ve already lost six kilos, which is ok, but I can’t stand to lose much more. I try and make sure I eat three meals a day of good nutritional substance, but I’ve even lost interest in chocolate, previously one of my major food groups.

I’m taking a vitamin B supplement to help counter the effects of the antibiotics, should I think about a calcium supplement? Is there anything else that might help? I had a look on the Internet and there’s a bit of advice there but thought the collected knowledge of the Dope might have some useful thoughts.

I’m female, 44 and a vegetarian and before this I was in rude health. I’ve lifted weights on and off for years, had a pretty active lifestyle, never broken anything or even spent a night is hospital so I’m finding being injured all very depressing. Any good advice on things I can do to help myself to mend would be much appreciated.

I urge that you talk to your doctor about this. While you may find many helpful suggestions here on the Message Boards, they’re not professional opinions, and you may get crackpot theories among the good ideas.

If you’re temporarily depressed over the situation, you might tell the doctor about that as well. An anti-depressant medication may help a bit, or finding someone to talk to about it may help a bit. My non-professional guess would be that your depression is causal, you’ve suffered a loss and are going through stages of grief, and that’s not unusual. Talking to someone about how that all works may help you understand it and overcome it more easily. OTOH, there may be something deeper going on; a medical professional can help, a Message Board likely can’t.

Good luck!

When you say you’re a vegetarian, do you mean a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, or a fruit-and-veg-only vegan?

If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and you aren’t actually allergic to milk, those canned “Ensure” type meals-in-a-can are nutritious, offer calories, and don’t require much effort to drink (they’re billed as “lactose-free” but warn that the milk protein they contain will affect folks who are allergic to milk). Do they have them Down Under?

Also, another approach to making yourself eat when you’re just not hungry is to abandon the three-meals-a-day standard (it’s not a “law”, you know :smiley: ) and just snack, snack, snack. Graze. Nibble. Whatever your personal vocabulary is. Make a big pot of spaghetti or chow mein or something, divide it up into small containers or Ziploc baggies, freeze them, and then take one out and nuke it in the microwave every couple of hours.

I had a similar situation a few years ago with a fracture that wouldn’t heal - long story. My doc recommended calcium supplements, and a general multivitamin couldn’t hurt either; the problem with calcium supplements is that your body doesn’t absorb a great deal of the calcium unless it’s taken in combination with other vitamins.

Also, in my case we discovered that maintaining proper blood circulation is very important to bone healing. I know it probably hurts like hell right now, but talk to your doc about how to maintain proper circulation in the arm. (It was difficult to do for a leg, as I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on it at all for more than 6 months.)

If you want to get more calcium, get a bottle of Tums (calcium carbonate,) and munch a couple every day.

Go see a doctor. Don’t put it off. With the depression and the weight loss, there’s more happening than just a broken ulna.

Unless some other parts were banged up, you can still exercise by walking fast. Take care of yourself.

Thank you all. The depression is certainly situational, mild and more borne of frustration than anything else, even typing takes me three times longer than usual. I’m healing well I’m told but I was born impatient and if there’s something useful (and sensible) I can do I’ll do it.

Metabolism has two parts, anabolic and catabolic. Anabolism is the metabolic period when tissue is being built. Healing takes place best while the body is in an anabolic condition.
Good, all around nutrition is essential to anabolism. you do need protein to remain anabolic, but that doesn’t mean you have to go kill a steer. Vegetable protein is a bit harder to digest, and can cause one to become catabolic*, but adding dariy or fish will overcome that. The amount of protein an average adult needs to remain anabolic is much less than most (Americans) people think. 3-4 ounces once or twice a day is enough. Extra calcium may or may not help, depending on your normal levels. A Tums give or take, can’t hurt, unless you have pre-existing kidney disease.
There are many things other than diet that cause catabolism.
Stress is a big one. The discomfort you are surely experiencing is a big stressor. Pain meds are your friends at this point. Even background pain can wear one down.
Light to moderate exercise will help relieve stress and, in itself will help anabolism, especially if you have been active, and suddenly become sedentary. Walking, is probably your best bet, but see if your healthcare provider has any ideas.
If you’ve been active and healthy before, continuing your routine, adjusted, of course, to accomodate your injury, should be enough.
Don’t give into the reactive depression that comes hand in glove with your injury. Instead of allowing the frustration slow typing brings, go out for a stroll.

You may want to take some yogurt since you are on antibiotics. Even a probiotic tablet won’t hurt, but I don’t know if it’s any better than yogurt. This has nothing to do with your fracture, just your digestion.

There’s been some studies which indicate that injecting a paste of the mineral composition of bones (calcium, phosphorus, etc.) into the area around a fracture can help speed the healing process dramatically. Now, obviously this is something that only trained medical personnel can do, still it might be worth asking your doctor to look into it to see if he/she thinks that it’d be beneficial for you.

I borke my foot about three or four years ago (I have a similar background to yours) and experienced the same thing. I was still hanging out with my crew members and coxing (I’m on a rowing team) but I started getting more and more withdrawn and my friends noticed I didn’t speak up much. Once I got the cast off and started working out again, it was amazing the difference in my mood. I really think being forced to become abruptly inactive made me depressed. I don’t know what would help a bane to heal (switching to a walking cast helped my foot but that’s not appropriate here) but maybe (if your doctor clears it) some exercise could help your mood…

I broke my leg a year or so ago. I got the idea from my doctor that a good blood supply to the injury makes a big difference in healing time. He said that my break would take longer to heal because it was in a place that normally doesn’t have as much blood supply (just above my ankle) and that I smoked. Man, was he ever all over me about the smoking and healing.

Anyway, I doubt that you smoke, but it seems to me that anything you can do to increase circulation and oxygen levels in your blood would help.

Hope you’re feeling better soon!

That’s exactly where mine was. Damn thing basically didn’t heal at all for several months - we finally had to get me an electromagnetic bone growth stimulator. Probably should have done the stupid bone grafting surgery from the beginning.

My ex, who I was dating when I broke my leg, was a massage therapist, and he found a Chinese massage book which actually recommended massage for fractures, to increase circulation in the area of the wound. It sounds awfully counterintuitive, but I checked with my doc, a board-certified orthopedic specialist in foot and ankle surgery, and he said that given the amount of hardware holding the bone fragments together, it wold be perfectly safe to try some gentle massage. Of course, check with your doc first, and you’re probably still too tender for that given the amount of soft tissue damage, but maybe later on.

Good luck - man, I feel your pain!