View Full Version : Broken limbs

03-22-2006, 01:36 PM
How long does a broken arm take to heal? I'm sure that it probably depends on the type of fracture, but I don't know what kinds there are. Do fractures in the arms or wrists always have to be set in casts?

03-22-2006, 02:03 PM
[QUOTE=PastMidnight]How long does a broken arm take to heal? I'm sure that it probably depends on the type of fracture, but I don't know what kinds there are. Do fractures in the arms or wrists always have to be set in casts?[/QUOTE

I have forgotten how long it took my arm to heal 25 years ago, but I do know I didn't have a cast. The break was about halfway between the elbow and the shoulder.

Hope this helps,

03-22-2006, 04:43 PM
Hi there,

I can't answer your question from experience, because I have never had a fracture (lucky me).

This (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractures)is what I found on Wiki. See if you find it useful.

Also, if you google with specific terms, you might find an answer to your question.


Kathie Freeman
03-22-2006, 10:41 PM
A broken bone takes six weeks to heal regardless of the type or size of the bone. A broken arm is almost always placed in a cast, sometimes a splint. When I was 35 or so I had a break in the same location as above, but I got a "weight cast". In other words, the cast was not on the break itself, but on the lower arm to keep the bones aligned. It hung around my neck, and gave me a raging case of whiplash! When I was 6 I broke one of the small bones in my right forearm, and by the time I got the cast off, I was left-handed. My mom had to pin my left sleve shut to make me go back to using my right hand.

03-22-2006, 10:58 PM
When I was six I broke my left wrist, and instead of a cast I wore a metal brace that extended from my elbow to palm. I was told to wear it for 8 weeks.

When I was twelve, I broke a couple of toes on my right foot. They simply taped them up and had me wear a hard shoe for 6-8 weeks.

When I was thirteen, I cracked my right kneecap. The initial x-rays were misread and so I spent the next two weeks using crutches without anything on the knee. (the doctor was actually reluctant to give me crutches at first but I really couldn't walk) After two weeks, I went back and they took more x-rays - this time fortunately they found the break and I wore a leg immobilizer for the next 8 weeks.

None of my breaks had to be set.

PS: The only time I had to wear a cast was when I ripped my Achilles Tendon completely in half...

03-24-2006, 01:21 AM
Kids and healthy young adults, it takes 6 to 8 weeks for a fracture to heal. Older adults can take twice that, easy. My mother-in-law's hip took about 5 months to heal.

Maryn, who also broke an arm as a kid

03-24-2006, 01:34 AM
Thanks for the help! I've never fractured anything and didn't really know about how they healed.

03-24-2006, 06:19 AM
You just never know. Four to eight weeks is average, but there are so many kinds and degrees of breaks that there really is no average. The last two or three weeks a cast is left on is mostly precautionary for most breaks.

Bone begins to heal immediately, and it actually heals very fast. It also usually heals stronger than it was before the break. All told, I've had almost twenty broken bones, and casts have been left on for as little as two weeks, to a high of three months. The three months was for an arm broken in several places, and a broken elbow.

I once had buckle fractures in both wrists at the same time, however, and only had to wear casts for two weeks, but was told to do nothing strenuous for two weeks as a precaution.

So much depends on the severity and location of the break that time is tough. I've had a number of broken bones that couldn't really take a cast, and they generally healed well enough within a couple of weeks that I was 100% pain free and functional again.

This aside, most people with a broken arm will be in a cast for six weeks. If, however, they remove the cast after four weeks, or even after three in a young, healthy adult, the bone will likely be very close to 100% healed. I've seen X-rays of breaks that were only seventy-two hours old, and the degree of healing was amazing.

03-24-2006, 07:45 AM
How long does a broken arm take to heal? I'm sure that it probably depends on the type of fracture, but I don't know what kinds there are. Do fractures in the arms or wrists always have to be set in casts?

I have never broken anything but fingers, however, my son has had four broken arms, three broken noses, three fractured ankles and two concussions. (Long story, was on a medication that I think made his bones weak because as soon as he came off the medication no more breaks) Anyway, he always had a cast on the arms and they stayed there 6-8 weeks with x-rays at two week intervals and tighter casts applied several times. He got so used to breaking arms etc that when we would go to the specialist he would say to my son, "Okay Bobby give me the drill," and my son would say "I known, I know, no biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, climbing mountains, swimming, football or gymnastics!" LOL

Tish Davidson
03-24-2006, 11:14 AM
This site has a good introduction to types of bone fractures, the difference in healing between children and adults, and possible complications.


03-25-2006, 05:19 AM
Helpful website!

Even given the range of healing times, I think I have my character's fracture healing far too quickly. I need to fix that....

Does anyone know how a minor fracture can be diagnosed without using X-rays? The website that Tish posted says that the person has a lot of pain and sometimes bruising, but can you tell a difference in pain between a fractured wrist and, say, a sprained wrist?

Guess I just had an accident-free childhood....http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif

Tish Davidson
03-25-2006, 05:37 AM
When you have a sprained or strained wrist, you've injured the tendons or ligaments. Ligaments attach bone to bone (like at your elbow or knee). Tendons attach muscle to bone. If you sprain your wrist, it tends to hurt more when you move the joint and you often get more swelling that with a break. If you break a bone near the joint, then it might be difficult to tell without an x-ray, but if someone broke their arm not near a joint, then a knowledgeable person could probably make a pretty good guess that it was broken without an x-ray. Also, are you aware that there is one bone (the humerus) in the upper arm and two bones (radius and ulna) in the lower arm, and a similar arrangement in the leg? Normally, when you break your forearm or lower leg, you only break one of the bones.

03-25-2006, 07:06 AM
[QUOTE=PastMidnight]Helpful website!
but can you tell a difference in pain between a fractured wrist and, say, a sprained wrist?

Sure, by the size of the medical bill! HAYUCK HAYUCK!

03-25-2006, 01:36 PM
I'll tell you what I'm trying to figure out, and maybe you all might have some suggestions. I have a character who has a fall on a set of stairs. Not the whole flight, but from about halfway up. She's facing up the stairs when she falls, so she falls backward. The way it is written now, she turns while she's falling so as to brace herself with her hands. I have her with a fracture as a result.

What do you think a natural reaction would be if someone was falling backwards? Would she indeed try to turn around and brace herself with her hands on the floor, or do you think the natural reaction would be to reach up and try to catch a rail or bannister on her way down? And if she does turn around and land on her hands, would it make sense for her to have a fracture, or might it just be a sprain? Maybe I need to determine how she falls and lands before I can determine what injury she sustains from it.

03-25-2006, 09:33 PM
Hi PastMidnight,

IMO, she'd put her hands out to catch herself. It's always my natural reaction when I'm falling.
I broke my humerus when I was about 13, about a half-inch above my left elbow and the bone also bent a bit. I was in traction for 2 weeks, and had a cast from my armpit to my fingertips for what felt like the whole summer (but was really 8 weeks). A plaster cast, it was SO heavy. I had to wear a sling for another month and go to physical therapy for about 4 months, no PE in school or half-court bball or anything for that time either.

This was in the early 1980s, though. A woman I work with broke her leg a couple of summers ago & was in a walking cast in 2 weeks and was back to normal in about 4 weeks. Things have changed a lot, so it may make a difference what time your story is set.

Have fun w/your WIP! http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif