Updated on April 1, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Medical marijuana can help treat the pain, swelling and other symptoms of broken bones. Millions of fractures occur in the U.S. each year caused by falls, car accidents, osteoporosis and more. Globally, osteoporosis causes nearly 9 million fractures each year, leading to an osteoporotic fracture every three seconds. There are many types of broken bones, too. Learn more about broken bones, their symptoms and how cannabis can help treat them.
What Are Broken Bones?
A broken bone, also called fracture, is a condition that changes the shape of a bone. Broken bones frequently occur where there’s a high impact or force put on a bone. Around one out of every 10 fractures occurs in the foot. After a broken bone occurs, medical care is required immediately to reposition the bone and stabilize it.
Types of Broken Bones
Common types of broken bones include:
- Open, compound fracture: This is if a bone pierces your skin or a blow breaks your skin at the time you broke your bone. Your bone might or might not be visible in the wound.
- Stable fracture: The bone’s broken ends are barely out of place and line up.
- Oblique fracture: This broken bone has an angled pattern.
- Transverse fracture: This broken bone has a horizontal fracture line.
- Partial fracture: This is an incomplete bone break.
- Complete fracture: This is a complete bone break, causing the bone to separate into two or more pieces.
- Comminuted fracture: The bone shatters into several small pieces with this type of broken bone.
- Stress fracture: Also referred to as a “hairline fracture,” this is a crack that could be hard to see with normal X-rays.
Causes of Broken Bones
Broken bones occur most often when you apply more force to the bone than what the bone can take. Your bones are the weakest when you twist them.
Common causes of broken bones are:
- Osteoporosis: A condition that weakens your bones, making them more likely to break.
- Trauma: A car accident, fall or football game tackle are all examples of trauma that can lead to broken bones.
- Stress fracture: These are most common in athletes.
- Overuse: Muscles can tire out with repetitive motion, placing more force on the bone, leading to a stress fracture.
Broken bones may also occur due to other conditions that weaken the bone like cancer.
Symptoms of Broken Bones
Many fractures are extremely painful and could keep you from moving the area injured. Other symptoms of a broken bone include:
- Bruising: Blood leaking from a fracture under the skin.
- Swelling and tenderness: The area around the injury will likely be swollen and tender.
- Deformity: A limb might appear “out of place” or a section of the bone might puncture through your skin.
Symptoms can differ depending on which bone has broken. For example:
- Elbow: Stiffness, bruising, visible deformity or “pop” noise at the time the bone broke.
- Arm: Difficulty moving or using the arm, abnormal bend, bruising, warmth or redness.
- Hand: Tenderness to touch, weakness and stiffness.
- Wrist: Decreased use of wrist and hand, a deformed or crooked appearance, unable to keep a grip.
- Foot: Severe pain, numbness in foot and toes, bruising, inability to walk comfortably, decreased range of motion, visible deformity.
- Finger: Shortened finger, unable to move a finger or a depressed knuckle.
- Ankle: Bruising, decreased range of motion, tenderness to the touch, inability to walk.
- Toe: Bruising, discoloration, inability to walk comfortably.
- Knee: Inability to straighten your knee, bruising, inability to walk.
- Leg: Severe pain, bruising, tenderness, inability to walk, obvious deformity.
Complications of Broken Bones
Fractures hurt and in some cases, the pain persists even after treatment. If you’re suffering from complications from a broken bone, such as immobility or infection, you’ll require professional orthopedic care immediately.
Bone-related infections, deformities, and complications that can occur following trauma to a bone include:
- Chronic pain
- Blood poisoning
- Bone deterioration
- Drainage from a wound
These complications can occur when you don’t have a bone trauma treated properly:
- Soft tissue and skin infections: These can become joint and bone infections quickly. Without immediate treatment, they can become chronic.
- Joint infections: These are also referred to as septic arthritis and frequently require surgical drainage and antibiotics. The doctor might have to drain the joint repeatedly to remove inflammatory cells.
- Bone infections: These are also referred to as osteomyelitis and can occur after a surgery or when a broken bone breaks the skin. The doctor will usually remove any dead tissue and may need to perform reconstructive or plastic surgery in the affected area. Bone infections, if left untreated, can send bacteria to other body areas. Cancers can also develop in areas with chronic infection.
Current Available Treatments for Broken Bones
Some available treatments your doctor may recommend for you if you break a bone are:
- A functional cast, splint or brace: The brace or cast allows “controlled” or limited movement of neighboring joints. Some, but not all, broken bones can be fixed with this treatment. Doctors apply splints, for example, when your fracture doesn’t need rigid immobilization. A splint, soft cast or temporary cast, might be the first treatment method you receive upon an initial fracture diagnosis. Later, you may wear a more permanent cast.
- Cast immobilization: A fiberglass or plaster cast is the most common treatment for a broken bone. Most fractures can successfully heal once the doctor repositions them and applies a cast to keep the broken ends in position properly while they’re healing. Casts both support and protect a broken bone during the healing period.
- Traction: Traction is typically used for aligning one or more bones by a steady, gently pulling action. Your physician uses pulleys, ropes or weights, depending on the location and severity of your broken bone, to apply force to tissues surrounding a fracture. Physicians use traction for pain relief before surgery for a fracture or to keep a broken leg in position during the early phases of healing.
- External fixation: With this procedure, the surgeon places metal screws or pins into your broken bone below and above the fracture area. The screws and pins connect to a metal bar on the outside of your skin. The device is a stabilizing frame holding your bones in the right position while they’re healing. In instances where the soft tissues and skin around the broken bone are damaged badly, the surgeon may apply an external fixator until you can tolerate surgery.
- Open reduction and internal fixation: With this surgery, the surgeon repositions the bone fragments in their regular alignment first and then attaches metal plates to your bone’s outer surface or uses special screws to hold them together. The surgeon may also insert rods down through your bone’s center marrow space to hold the fragments together.
Medical Marijuana as an Alternative Treatment for Broken Bones
Cannabis triggers the receptors that respond to endocannabinoids to produce its effects. Endocannabinoids are marijuana-like molecules your body naturally synthesizes. In the brain, weed acts on the CB1 receptors to cause mind-altering effects. When the brain’s CB1 receptors bind with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, you experience that “high” sensation typically associated with marijuana.
But cannabinoid receptors are spread out throughout the entire body, including in the bones, leading some researchers to believe cannabis compounds may have medical applications beyond relieving pain or helping patients with cancer regain their appetite.
Another cannabinoid that’s gaining a lot of scientific attention is cannabidiol (CBD). CBD doesn’t produce a “high” as THC does, but it still has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
In a study, researchers found after eight weeks, CBD improved the healing process in rat models with broken leg bones. The study found CBD actually makes bones stronger while healing and could prevent broken bones in the future. CBD does this by enhancing the maturation of collagen, the connective tissue protein holding the body together.
How Medical Marijuana Treats Broken Bones
Broken bone patients use cannabis as a treatment alternative in these areas:
While cannabinoids are beneficial and therapeutic in helping with the recovery of a bone injury, medical marijuana also acts as a helpful pain management mechanism. Doctors often prescribe opioid narcotics such as Percocet or Vicodin or analgesics like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat pain. But, while opioids are effective in alleviating severe pain, they’re extremely addictive and come with harmful side effects.
Using analgesics long-term can lead to severe side effects like liver damage, stomach bleeding and kidney damage. Using marijuana for broken bones eases pain effectively and is a much safer option than opioids.
Pain-relieving strains may include:
- Alien Stardawg (Sativa)
- Blackberry Platinum (Indica)
- Lemonberry (Hybrid)
2. Swelling and Inflammation
There are more than 100 various cannabinoids in medical weed, giving it the power to target numbness and pain by modulating nerve activity. Cannabis can also trigger your body’s anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective responses.
Inflammation strains to try are:
- Rafael (Sativa)
- Charlotte’s Web (Sativa)
- Cannatonic (Hybrid)
Patients can experience stiffness with broken bones. A study that surveyed 112 regular cannabis users found the herb helped relieve their multiple sclerosis-related stiffnesses.
While a few conventional medicines can reduce individuals’ stiffness and discomfort, taking these medications typically doesn’t provide complete relief. Often the medications cause drowsiness, weakness and other side effects some people find intolerable. Cannabis-induced pain relief and euphoria may reduce individuals’ perception of muscle stiffness.
Some good strains for stiffness include:
- Harlequin (Sativa)
- Critical Mass (Indica)
- Sour Tsunami (Hybrid)
4. Trouble Sleeping
The pain of broken bones can interfere with some patient’s sleep. Marijuana can be a beneficial treatment that can ease insomnia symptoms directly when taken at night. Many patients report marijuana works much better than conventional sleep medicines, isn’t habit-forming and leaves them refreshed and feeling well the next day.
Strains for sleep include:
- Ingrid (Indica)
- Skywalker (Hybrid)
- Granddaddy Purple (Indica)
Side Effects of Medical Marijuana
If you experience any side effects from your medical marijuana treatment, there are ways you can reduce them. Some side effects of cannabis may include:
- Red eyes: Red eyes won’t necessarily harm you, but they could cause embarrassment or make you self-conscious. You can use over-the-counter eye drops to get rid of this redness if your eye doctor approves.
- Hunger: Weed does make you crave food, which may not be a good thing for people who are trying to watch their weight. A good solution for this is to keep healthy food around when you use your treatment to avoid snacking on junk food when you get “the munchies.”
- Drowsiness: Along with making you feel calm, indica strains can make you feel sleepy. If you have trouble sleeping, this could be a good side effect. However, if sleepiness is interfering with your everyday functioning, you may want to use the treatment before you go to bed at night instead of during the daytime hours.
- Short-term memory loss: You might feel more forgetful when your medication kicks in. If this occurs during school or work, you may want to change the time you use treatment so your memory loss won’t be during a time where you need the extra brainpower or concentration, such as when you’re driving a vehicle or at work.
- Thirst or dry mouth: Like some pharmaceutical medications, medical cannabis can cause “cotton mouth.” Drink a lot of water or other fluids to keep from feeling thirsty. Chewing gum can help eliminate dry mouth.
The Best Ways to Use Medical Marijuana for Broken Bones
There are various methods of using marijuana. Some include:
- Inhalation: Smoking or vaping is the most popular method type, but not the healthiest as it could affect your lungs.
- Oral: Oral ingestion of your medical pot provides you with various options of administration including tinctures, beverages, and edibles such as brownies, cakes, and cookies.
- Suppositories: Maybe not the most pleasant method of delivery, but suppositories are an option when you’re looking for long-last, fast results.
- Topicals: Topicals come in oils, lotions, salves or creams. They are non-invasive, long-lasting and non-psychoactive. You apply them to your skin for localized relief. This method of delivery might be a good option for you if your pain extends only to your broken bone area.
- Transdermal: Formulations containing cannabinoids in the patch pass through into your skin and into your bloodstream.
Schedule Your Appointment for Your Marijuana for Broken Bones Treatment
Learning the laws of your state concerning cannabis should be your first step in your medical weed journey. Then, if legal in your state, you’ll want to find a qualified, licensed cannabis doctor who can provide you with your medical marijuana recommendation and tailor a treatment plan for you. We have a comprehensive list of marijuana doctors and dispensaries right here at MarijuanaDoctors.com to help make the process easier. Schedule your appointment today to speak with a cannabis doctor and get started on your medical marijuana treatment.
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