Osteopath Explains: How Long Does It Take for a Bone to Heal?

Ever broken a bone? Or watched a sporting match where a player has had a fracture? Often the medical commentator will indicate that the player will be out for about six weeks through injury. How do they know this?

As an osteopath Melbourne we see many patients with broken bones and sprains. The obvious question asked is ‘how long will it take to heal?’

The short answer is that we are all human, and so therefore our bones generally heal at the same rate. There is some research that indicates we can heal bones faster by exercising, having a good diet and avoiding smoking. This makes sense, but generally these improvements will not markedly vary from what we can achieve biologically. That is, if a bone normally takes six weeks to heal, following a strict regime won’t cut this to three or four weeks.

Our bodies are a marvellous and efficient organism because they can actually heal themselves when faced with injury. This healing process is automatic. It will automatically identify and repair broken tissues, muscles, and even bones without you even knowing they are damaged.

Your body can heal a bone by itself. The only problem is that the damaged bone may heal in the incorrect position, which may cause more problems in the future. To alleviate this potential problem, broken bones are almost always supported with casts, splits or even cement. This reduces movement, while still allowing the patient to stay mobile.

The time it takes for a bone to completely heal and to be back to its normal condition depends on the type of bone that is broken and where it is located. Generally, bones with a reduced blood supply will take longer to heal. Other factors that affect the duration of the healing process include activities like drinking alcohol and smoking.

Here is a list of the bones in some parts of the body and their estimate time of healing:

  • Collar bone takes 3-8 weeks of healing time
  • Shoulder blade takes 6 weeks of healing time
  • Ribs takes 4 weeks of healing time
  • Upper arm takes 4-10 weeks of healing time
  • Lower arm takes 6 weeks of healing time
  • Wrist takes 4-12 weeks of healing time
  • Fingers takes 4-6 weeks of healing time
  • Pelvis takes 4-6 weeks of healing time
  • Upper leg takes 12 weeks of healing time
  • Knee takes 4-6 weeks of healing time
  • Lower leg takes 10-24 weeks of healing time
  • Ankle takes 6 weeks of healing time
  • Foot takes 3-12 weeks of healing time
  • Toes takes 3 weeks of healing time

If you have concerns about the way your bone is healing, or just want further information, it’s recommended that you contact your doctor.