The internet never ceases to amaze when it comes to the weird health fads people are willing to try. One of the latest trends in social media is “bone crushing” – and it’s as insane as it sounds.
It involves subjecting your face to trauma with a blunt object in hopes of permanently improving the way you look. The proposition is that by using a hammer, a rolling pin, a bottle – in fact, any hard object you can find – and repeatedly driving it into the bone architecture of your face, you will change your appearance.
It should go without saying, but just in case: don’t do it. Bone crushing will not permanently change the structure of your face, but it can cause other permanent damage, including tooth loss and blindness.
The “science” behind the trend
Bone is a living tissue and is constantly being rejuvenated in a tightly regulated process known as ‘remodelling’. In fact, your entire bone structure is completely replaced over the course of a decade. Remodeling ensures that we always carry as much bone as is needed to support and protect our tissues, and adapts our bone architecture to our movement requirements.
Certain stimuli can also change our bones. For example, exercise – which places a “load” (external force) on our bones – ensures that the bone maintains its shape and strength. Without this stimulus, bone will begin to break down to avoid carrying anything we don’t use.
Many videos promoting the use of breaking bones misinterpret a theory called Wolff’s Law, which recognizes that bones adapt to stresses placed on them—and that over time, when a load is repeatedly applied to a particular bone, it will change it. For example, college athletes participating in sports such as basketball, tennis, and track and field have stronger bones in their dominant arm than their non-dominant arm due to the repetitive stresses placed on it.
But the key here is understanding that these bones only change as a result of the muscles around them. When the muscles pull on the attached bone, it helps stimulate growth. So while the bones in the face do obey Wolff’s law, this will not happen as a result of repeatedly hitting those bones.
And if that were possible, we would see these changes in professional athletes who take repeated blows to their face and skull. But in reality, most of the physical changes seen in such athletes are due to scarring or improperly healed fractures.
There is no evidence that repeated blows to the face change bone structure in humans. Although research shows it can cause changes in rats, their bone structure and biomechanics are vastly different from humans. Not to mention that the animals in this study suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of these repeated impacts.
Professional bone breaking
Repeated blows to the face can also cause fractures, as these bones are quite weak.
While it is true that many cosmetic surgeries require breaking bones, this is only done when absolutely necessary – and done in a specific place on the body. The process of breaking or shaving a bone to change its shape is called an osteotomy and is sometimes done during rhinoplasty (nose surgery) or genioplasty (jaw surgery).
Although an osteotomy can change a person’s appearance and the alignment of certain bones, it can also change the way the bone functions. And even when these operations are performed by professionals, the recovery is lengthy – and the result may not be exactly what the patient wants. Not to mention, osteotomies also come with the risk of complications like nerve damage.
The bone that is subsequently placed to repair the fracture (known as “knitted bone”) is also inferior in quality and structure. So while a typical fracture may take 6-8 weeks to heal as the braided bone connects the broken ends, it takes anywhere from a few months to years to get back to the original structure and quality of what was there originally.
Serious health risks
Many who may have tried the bone-breaking trend have done so to alter the bone structure of the cheekbones (known as the zygomatic bones) or the jawbone (lower jaw).
The zygomatic bone in each cheek facilitates facial expression and protects the eyes. The lower jaw helps us chew, speak and gives the shape of the lower part of the face. These structures are optimized for these functions, so hitting any of them with something heavy will likely only damage the bones. And because our skulls aren’t designed to withstand repeated heavy impacts, broken bones can lead to traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions.
Damage to the cheekbones is likely to result in bruising and swelling, which in turn can damage the eyes as well as facial nerves – potentially leading to facial paralysis.
The same risks exist with damage to the lower jaw. Behind it runs a large blood vessel that supplies blood to important parts of the face and head, including the teeth, parts of the ear, and the meninges. Significant damage to the lower jaw can rupture this artery. Because of its position, it can be difficult to see the damage and stop bleeding in the surrounding tissue. This can lead to death – although it is more likely to cause damage or loss of teeth and nerve damage which can lead to loss of sensation or function.
Even if this trend could give you the facial changes you want, you’ll have to keep “breaking bones” for the rest of your life—because once you stop, the bone will revert back to its most efficient structure.
If you want to change the appearance of your face, please consult a specialist.