Breaking a bone: Does it come back stronger once it heals? The answer is not cut and dry, even though the old adage states that you can’t break the same bone twice because the bone grows back stronger than before. However, it’s a myth that a bone grows back any thicker or denser in the fracture site, and there is still a chance you can fracture it again in the same place in the future. The odds are no higher or lower.
On the other hand, there is a brief period as a bone heals that the site of the fracture is stronger than the surrounding bone. However, later in the healing process, the fracture site and surrounding bone will reach equal strength, meaning the fracture site can break again, because the bone is not any stronger or weaker once it heals. To understand why this is, it’s helpful to learn more about the healing process, which has 3 phases and starts right after a bone breaks.
The Bone Healing Process
When a bone breaks, the continuum of whether it is “injured” or if it has “healed” includes 3 separate phases:
- The reactive phase is when the area around the fracture site swells, and the healing process begins as the bone forms a callus where calcium deposits for the rebuilding process. This stage lasts about 48 hours after the injury.
- The reparative phase is the time when the membrane covering the fracture converts into bone and cartilage to start bridging the gap between the broken bone segments. This stage ends about 2 to 3 weeks post-fracture.
- The remodeling phase is the final healing phase after a bone breaks. In this phase, the trabecular (temporary) bone is replaced by compact permanent bone. The remodeling phase takes as little as 3 weeks or as long as 5 years, depending on many variables, including the nature and extent of the fracture, the stability of the fracture, and other biological processes.
Why a Broken Bone Is Neither Stronger nor Weaker After it Heals
There is no evidence that a broken bone will grow back stronger than it was before once it has healed. Although there may be a brief time when the fracture site is stronger, this is fleeting, and healed bones are capable of breaking again anywhere, including at the previous fracture site.
You may think you’d be more likely to be struck by lightning twice than to break the same bone twice (especially in the same place), but that’s not the case. As long as you have bones, it’s possible to break them, and they can break from many various injuries. Bones typically have no trouble supporting your body through everyday activities, and they are strong and flexible enough to absorb impact during physical activity. A bone only breaks if it is put under more stress than it can handle, and that might mean the same bone could break twice.
How Can I Make My Bones Stronger?
Weak bones are more likely to break and take a longer time to heal after they’ve broken. While you can’t ensure you’ll never have another injury accident again, you can do some things to reduce the chance you’ll break a bone – especially the same bone you’ve already broken.
Physical activity can help build stronger bones, especially lifting weights or doing other high-impact activities. You can also improve your bone health by eating a healthy diet rich in calcium. Also, you shouldn’t smoke, as it is bad for your whole body, and that includes your bones. The reason why smoking is bad for your bones is that it makes the cells which create new bones work more slowly.Contact us at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists to book an appointment! Call (925) 302-2088 or reach out online for a quick response.