How long does it take to heal a broken arm?

Written by rachel nall
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How long does it take to heal a broken arm?
That cast will be off in four to six weeks. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

A broken arm not only causes extreme pain, but it also keeps a person from using his arm for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Generally, the amount of recovery time depends on the severity of the break, the site of the break and how well the patient follows a physician's orders for treatment. There are several types of broken bones (also known as fractures): complete, where the bone was broken in two; greenstick, where the bone has not completely broken but is cracked on one side; single, where the bone is broken in only one place; comminuted, where the bone has been shattered or broken in several pieces; and open, where the bone is broken so severely that it sticks out through the skin.

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The healing process

While breaking a bone is very traumatic to the body, bones are natural healers and over time produce new cells and blood vessels that rebuild it. Eventually, the growing cells close up the break, but it is important to make sure the bone has been properly set and immobilised so that the bone heals straight. A cast typically is worn for four to six weeks, then rehabilitation to strengthen the arm is recommended. While the bone is healing, it's important to consume bone-building calcium and vitamin D (from food sources such as spinach, milk and calcium-fortified orange juice).

Rehabilitation

Having your arm in a cast can weaken the arm while it is immobilised for healing. In order to ensure it reaches full strength and to prevent a re-break, a physician may recommend rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy sessions. These may last anywhere from two to eight weeks after the cast is removed.

How to heal

These rehabilitation sessions emphasise flexibility in the hand, wrist and elbow joint while strengthening the muscles that were unused while the arm was in a cast. These types of exercises are often the final step in healing a fractured arm and restoring function.

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