BONE HEALTH AND FRACTURE HEALING
Bones are very much alive and constantly changing over time, even in adults. We often hear about how diet and lifestyle choices can affect our overall health, but these are also important factors for bone health. This is especially true when bones are growing during childhood, thinning with age, or attempting to heal a fracture after an injury.
WHICH NUTRIENTS ARE MOSTE IMPORTANT FOR BONE HEALTH AND FRACTURE HEALING?
The two most important nutrients for bone health and fracture healing are calcium and Vitamin D. Both can be found in abundance in milk, but there are many other dietary sources as well. If you cannot consume enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, supplements can be found at most drug stores and supermarkets.
The daily recommended amounts of calcium and Vitamin D vary by age and sex:
|Children 1-3 years old||700 milligrams (mg)|
|Children 4-8 years old||1,000 mg|
|Children 9-18 years old||1,300 mg|
|Adults 19-50 years old||1,000 mg|
|Women 51 to 70 years old||1,200 mg|
|Men 51 to 70 years old||1,000 mg|
|Women and men 71+||1,200 mg|
|Age 1-70||600 IU|
|Age 71 and older||800 IU|
Your physician may recommend even higher doses of calcium and Vitamin D for certain conditions like osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones that occurs with age, most common in post-menopausal women. Osteoporosis can lead to fragility fractures of the hip or wrist.
WHAT ACTIVITIES PROMOTE BONE HEALTH?
Healthy bones require weight-bearing activities to stimulate the bone cells to maintain the bone structure and density. If the bone cells are not stimulated to perform this routine “maintenance”, the bones can become thin (osteoporosis) and may eventually fracture. The best way to stimulate this bone maintenance, is to perform regular low-impact weight-bearing exercises like walking or jogging. For the upper extremities, resistance activities like light weights or bands can stimulate the bones. Obviously, you should not be lifting weights when you have a fracture that is not yet healed, but in the final phases of bone healing light resistance exercises may be beneficial. Consult with your surgeon before initiating any exercises involving an extremity that has been injured or operated on.
WHAT FACTORS HARM BONE HEALTH?
Tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, malnutrition, sedentary lifestyle, lack of weight-bearing exercise, have all been linked with poor bone health and risk for developing osteoporosis. These same factors have been linked to fracture healing problems including delayed fracture healing and fracture nonunion.
Tobacco use in particular has been shown to have detrimental effects on fracture healing, and every effort should be made to quit using tobacco while recovering from a fracture. Tobacco use also increases the risk of anesthesia complications, and infections after fracture surgery.
IS THERE A TEST FOR BONE HEALTH?
If you have a wrist or hip fracture that occurs after a minor ground-level fall (fragility fractures), your physician may order a DEXA scan to measure your bone density. DEXA scans may also routinely be checked in women 65 or older since they are at increased risk for osteoporosis. Vitamin D levels can also be checked with a blood test.
Ensuring adequate calcium and Vitamin D intake, getting regular weight-bearing exercise, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol intake are the best ways to proactively keep your bones healthy.
There are now also several medical treatments available for osteoporosis. We defer these treatments to osteoporosis specialists but are happy to make a referral to a reputable specialist in your community.
If you have suffered a fragility fracture of the wrist due to osteoporosis, the treatment for the fracture is very similar to regular wrist fractures, except that they often more severe fractures, and are more likely to require surgery. See our information on Distal Radius Fractures (Wrist) for more information.
READY TO CONFIRM A DIAGNOSIS AND FIX THE PROBLEM OR JUST WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Our Board-Certified Orthopaedic Hand and Wrist Surgeons are here to help! They can often diagnose the problem in one visit, and get you started with a treatment plan. We offer a wide variety of both nonoperative and operative treatment options.
This content is not a substitute for expert medical advice or diagnosis and is for educational purposes only.