How to stay positive and heal when you’ve broken a bone
How do you keep positive and heal quickly when you’ve broken a bone? Are you feeling like it’s completely ruined your plans and progress? Wondering how you’re going to get through the next few months of recovery?
I know how it feels! I recently fractured a bone in my foot (playing tag with my sons and tripping over a rather large foam roller – the irony! – at high speed).
Although it hurt(!), my main concern was how it was going to really disrupt my fitness routine which had been going so well. I was five minutes from leaving for the gym when it happened and as my foot swelled and throbbed I was still trying to figure out if I could make it to my class anyway. Needless to say, I didn’t make it.
The Positivity Plan
But what I very quickly realised is that I had to come up with a plan to not let it derail the progress I’d made but also to figure out how I could best support my body to heal effectively and remain positive throughout.
I won’t lie: there were some ups and downs. Sometimes I felt very frustrated, particularly when I seemed to be taking backwards steps and my foot hurt more after days of feeling better. But I worked hard to bring my focus back to the positive and in doing so, felt the positive impact on how I was able to deal with the pain, the limitations and the disruption to my normal routine.
Below I share six steps I figured out in order to keep myself sane and turn my broken foot into an opportunity for growth – and hopefully can do the same for you if you’ve recently broken any bones!
You can also watch my video that pieces together snapshots of my progress as I went through the experience and learned different ways to cope and build from it.
Step 1: Absorb the impact. Then move on.
Your body absorbed the impact of whatever you did to break it. Now your mind has to absorb the impact of what it means to you in the coming months. It’s ok to feel frustrated and upset at the prospect of the limitations it brings.
As you’ll see in the video, once I realised the extent of the damage and how long it was going to take to heal, I found a quiet place and cried at the thought of the lost opportunities to continue on my quest for fitness, what it meant for my treasured morning school runs now I couldn’t drive, the cost to my freedom of not being very mobile, not being able to escape the house without someone else to drive me somewhere, and so on.
But what’s most important is not to dwell too long in the upset.
Yes, feel upset and frustrated. But then get over it as quickly as you can. You need to look forwards and come up with the best plan you can to help yourself be positive and heal – these steps can help you to do that.
Step 2: Rest. Even if you don’t want to.
This may not be the answer or plan you were looking for… You might feel frustrated by the prospect. And let me tell you, this was the last thing I wanted to do. In fact the very next day I still tried to charge around the house with my boot on as if nothing had happened, I tried a YouTube exercise video to exercise, I hobbled around too much trying to keep up with all the social activities on my calendar. And I paid the price. My foot ached so much more.
I quickly realised I had to accept the need for rest and did so for the next few days and the situation improved. But don’t let that fool you… Twice more I went through the same cycle of overdoing it, paying the price and then realising I had to rest.
It took me a while, but I realised the only way to get over the broken foot completely was to accept that my mobility was limited and rest was crucial otherwise I was only delaying the healing.
I hope in sharing this with you that you can avoid the error of attempting to do too much in the very early days of your injury. You have to accept the scale of damage and you have to rest your body so there’s enough energy to get on with the healing process.
Step 3: Be informed about the healing process
What is incredible is how the body gets to work immediately and spontaneously to heal itself.
It really helped me to understand exactly what my body was doing immediately after the fracture, how long it would be before the bone would even start regrowing (10 days+), how bone actually regrows, and what fuel the body needs to help support that process (see step 4 – Fuelling the Bone Healing Process).
To give a brief overview of how this works, within a few hours of the break, the body starts to form a clot around the break and cells inside the clot begin to clean the bone fragments and kill any germs that might have found their way in. The gap is then flooded with repair cells that split into their specialised roles.
About two weeks after the fracture has happened, proteins produced by the specialised cells begin to create a soft callus around the fracture.
During the next stage cells called osteoblasts create new bone adding minerals to make it a hard callus. This stage can take anything between six and twelve weeks.
Longer term the body very cleverly works to remodel the bone back to its original shape using cells called osteoclasts to break down any extra bone. But this phase can take anywhere between three and nine years!
For me, I spent weeks worrying about whether my foot would heal properly, whether I’d be able to do my gym classes again, and how this would impact me longer term. I’m happy to say that three months later the bone had healed, I suddenly was able to go back to my classes and a couple of trips to a very good physio reassured me that I should be ok longer term. It’s all about patience!
Step 4: Fuelling the bone healing process – what to eat
I very quickly did some online research to see if I could figure out the best food to eat to ensure my body was getting the right nutrients it needed to help heal the bone in my foot. Below is a list of key nutrients and sources you can find them in.
If you’d like to see a handy chart of top sources for each of these nutrients as well as a list of meals I also found (not my recipes but either an easy mix of key foods or I’ve noted the well-known books I found the recipes in) you can download The Life Reporter’s Guide to Bone Healing Nutrition below.
Keep in mind that the body uses A LOT of energy to heal. Now is not the time to go on a calorie-restricted diet. As well as looking for good sources of bone-healing nutrients, make sure you cut out the bad stuff (see below).
Key Sources of Nutrition for Bone Healing
Calcium: Spinach, Kale, Yoghurt, Sardines (with bones), Cheese
Protein: Eggs, Salmon (wild like sockeye), Prawns, Chicken, Quinoa, Steak, Pork Chops, Turkey Breast
Vitamin C: Oranges, Kiwis, Strawberries. Grapefruit, Peppers, Kale, Tomatoes Lemons
Vitamin D: Sunshine! If that’s in short supply… Oysters, Sardines, Mackerel, Salmon
Vitamin K: Spinach, Sardines, Flaxseeds, Kiwis
Zinc: Oysters, Crab, Pumpkin seeds, Chia seeds, Spinach, Pork chops, Chicken, Yoghurt, Prawns
Magnesium (needed to help your body use calcium): Green leafy vegetables, Flaxseeds, Chia seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Almonds, Avocados
Bromelain (anti-inflammatory and good for healing soft tissue wounds): Pineapple (the only source)
Foods to avoid
This is just as important. Some foods leach calcium from your body, including alcohol, salt, sugar and caffeine. I mostly avoid processed sugar anyway, I cut back on salt I used in cooking and used almost none for flavouring, I switched to decaf coffee for my morning cup and I was careful not to drink too much, although sometimes I indulged in a glass of wine here and there!
I have not ventured into the world of supplements before, mainly because I’ve felt uncomfortable with the thought of artificially sourcing nutrients with pills. I’ll be delving into this topic in a future blog.
But on this occasion I decided to put that concern aside and give my body the highest chance of healing well. I spoke to someone in our local natural health food store and have since been taking multi-vitamins and a collagen supplement daily. I know I need further education in this space before feeling confident that I’ve selected the right ones. But I have felt the impact in other areas such as feeling more refreshed in the mornings.
I am however a fan of spirulina (I mix it into smoothies), as an easily digestible complete protein, with calcium, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also good as an alkaline to counter-act acidic food that can be damaging to bone healing.
Step 5: Finding ways to maintain fitness when you can’t walk
What I’ve learned through this process has been that resting and healing is actually the number one goal, that will enable you to return to fitness properly and sooner than you might if you push it too soon.
That said, it still feels great to feel active when you’re ready, to stretch your body and to get your heart rate up.
Some gentle yoga is really helpful as I’ve found that you can end up sitting in similar positions for much of the day, trying to keep the weight off, which for me then made my back and hips ache! Stretching really helps.
Some Youtube favourites specifically for those with broken bones in their foot are here (but just be sure to avoid any stretches that you don’t feel would be right for your body).
- Hips, gluten and hamstrings
- Broken toe/moon boot yoga
- Yoga sequence for broken leg/ankle/foot
- Foot recovery yoga
Any exercise to start with when you have a broken foot is going to be very focused on your arms and core. Some good workout videos are here (although I still found it hard to get my heart rate up high enough to feel like I’d really worked out). But thanks to Caroline Jordan for her ‘hurt foot’ series of exercise videos that helped me – she is one of the most optimistic workout buddies!
- Part 1: Hurt foot workout
- Part 2: Hurt foot workout
- Part 3: Hurt foot workout
- Core / abs workout with a cast (short 10 minute video)
- Footless workout
Once you’re able to take your boot off and can slowly start to rehabilitate, you can’t dive straight into the intense cardio you might have done before, but you can start to build up with other exercises such as:
- The cross-trainer
- Exercise bike
Any physio exercises you are given, it goes without saying, are incredibly important to do at the frequency advised.
Step 6: Bring yourself back to positivity
When you have low moments (and you will), you have to battle with yourself to find the positivity. There are lots of different ways you can do this such as…
Proactively change the thoughts in your mind and your perspective – this is key.
Instead of telling yourself: “This is just my luck, things always go wrong for me; I’ve ruined my fitness plans and I’m going to get out of shape; My life is going to be so difficult for months now; It was so stupid of me to trip over the foam roller I left in the middle of the floor – I could have avoided this, etc., etc.
Change the story.
Catch yourself if your thoughts start to descend this way and instead tell yourself things like:
- “I will figure out a different way to keep in shape and while it may not be at the same level, this is just a temporary slow down, a mere blip, in my health plan that is for the entirety of my life;
- I will have to put in place some changes but it will give me an opportunity to figure out a different way of operating – so I don’t get to do the school run anymore, but I do get to have coffee in peace when the kids leave and I can still choose to go along to get out of the house on occasion!”
And finally going over what went wrong and wishing it could have been different is just a real waste of energy. It’s my own fault that I left something in the middle of the floor and ran over it but I’ve wasted no energy fretting about that because it cannot be changed. It’s just one of those things!
Meditation and visualisation
Meditation’s calming effect can help you to deal better with any negativity you might feel.
But you can also focus your meditation on healing. You can either use guided meditations (I found a few such as these below from YouTube)
Or you can create your own meditations and visualise the healing process. Once I understood from Step 3 about how the healing process for broken bones actually worked, I could then focus on bringing in positive energy and visualising my body delivering the nutrients to help flush out the toxins and rebuild the bone.
I believe that there is a real mind-body connection (read more of Dr. Deepak Chopra as a great source on this topic) and that you ought to give your body every chance you can; visualising healing in your mind can help guide the body to respond.
Monitor your inputs
Don’t watch or listen to things that will bring you down. Instead watch uplifting movies or shows, listen to music you love, or enjoy some comedy (10 minutes of funny videos can make me laugh, helping to change my outlook – hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re laughing).
Acknowledge the wonderful things that are still in your life. I’m sure you’ll find many if you really try. For me, I come back to the fact that my husband is supportive, I’m blessed with three wonderful (but crazy) boys, I have a roof over my head, and so on. Things can always be worse so you have to put it in perspective.
And when you focus on being grateful it does put things in perspective and you don’t have space to feel down.
Find a project
Focus the mind on something you might have wanted to do for ages that doesn’t require you to be mobile (finally getting to the annual photo album, piecing together your videos, starting to build the website you’ve been thinking of, creating content for your side project, reading books from your wishlist, etc.), but haven’t had time to. This can give you motivation, positivity and a real sense of accomplishment.
Actively choose positivity
You have full control over how you choose to respond to your broken bones. Choose to actively be positive. It requires effort and mental adjustments. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel down, but do all you can to avoid dwelling in the miserable aspects of the situation. You will make your life better if you push yourself to find the positive in all situations. And I believe that being positive can in itself help you to heal faster.
Good luck with the healing and I hope this information helps you face the challenge with positivity! Let me know in the comments below if you’ve broken any bones and how you’ve found ways to positively deal with the situation.