Rehabilitation for Bone Healing

Deep Drive into Broken Bones

by Cathryn Adolph, LVT, CCRP, CCFT

There are several medical conditions that can cause damage to bones, including trauma (picture upper right) and surgery (picture lower left).  When the bone is damaged, care must be taken to facilitate bone regrowth and not hinder the healing process. 

Physiology of Bone

Bone is a living, dynamic tissue composed of tissue and minerals.  It serves several important functions to the body.  The skeletal system provides the framework, which with muscles, allows for movement.  It also protects and supports the major organs of the body.  Additionally, bone serves as a location for production of red blood cells, platelets, and some white blood cells.  Finally, bone contributes to regulating mineral balance in the body by storing and releasing minerals, such as calcium.

Bone develops and responds to stress placed upon it.  While the word “stress” has a negative meaning in society, mechanical stress is very important to bone.  Without it, bones may actually atrophy and become weaker.

Rehabilitation and Bone Healing

Early in the rehabilitation process, we encourage gentle weight bearing and range of motion through exercise.  Body weight and light tension from the muscle pulling on the bone, causes stress to the bone.  This stress tells the bone where it needs to lay down more bone.

Cold laser therapy can speed healing of damaged bone.  The infrared light from the laser improves circulation and stimulates the cells to produce more energy.  These energized cells can now repair themselves or divide faster than they normally would.  To ensure safety for the pet and all nearby, cold laser therapy should only be performed by properly trained veterinary personnel.

What Happens when Bones Don’t Heal?

Very rarely, there are cases in which bone does not heal properly.  An additional treatment option is Acoustic Compression Therapy (ACT), also called “shockwave.”  During ACT, sound waves are used as a concussive force, adjusted within the patient’s comfort level, to stimulate some controlled inflammation within the bone.  Not all inflammation is bad.  An inflammatory response is the first stage of healing after any injury.  This therapy can be used for fractures that do not heal or after surgery where bone growth may be slow.


In the early stages of bone healing, our focus in rehabilitation is to decrease pain and gently provide controlled load to the bone.  Over time, your trained rehabilitation therapy professionals will gradually increase weight bearing in the limb and slowly improve range of motion in the joints around the bone injury at a pace that is appropriate for the dog’s medical condition, age, and also the other tissues affected in the healing process, such as cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.