- The TikTok trend “bone smashing” refers to people hitting themselves in the face with objects to improve their looks.
- The misinformed theory behind bone smashing is that bones will heal in a more desirable alignment after being broken or fractured.
- Experts say this trend is extremely dangerous and can result in permanent damage.
If you’ve heard about “bone smashing” or seen videos of it on TikTok, you’re probably already cringing.
The term is as concerning as it sounds and refers to people hitting themselves with objects in the face with the hope of improving their looks.
“In a desperate and depraved effort to gain physical beauty and acceptance by others, people are willfully breaking the bones in their own face, believing that the bones will heal back in a way that makes them more physically attractive,” Kyle Zagrodzky, founder & CEO of OsteoStrong, told Healthline.
However, the chance of this happening approaches 0%, said Dr. Etan Sugarman, an orthopaedic surgeon at Lenox Health Greenwich Village.
“The idea that randomly breaking your bone will magically result in a more desirable cosmetic appearance, I think it is, at best, magical thinking. More likely than not…this will result in pain without any significant improvement in cosmetic appearance,” he told Healthline.
The trend is part of a bigger trend on social media called “looksmaxing,” which refers to a person making effort to improve their physical appearance. Looksmaxing ranges from applying makeup, practicing skin routines, and eating healthy to extreme measures like cosmetic surgeries, disordered eating, excessive exercise, and more.
Many proponents of bone smashing mention Wolff’s law, coined by the 19th-century German surgeon Julius Wolff, who said bones would adapt to the demands or stress placed on them.
For example, a person who does physical labor for work may find that the body part they use most often has adapted to withstand the stress it endures.
“This is why we see certain types of athletes, like gymnasts, develop stronger bones, than say a professional swimmer who puts little stress on their bones, or someone who has a sedentary lifestyle will be at greater risk of developing osteoporosis,” Zagrodzky said.
Wolff’s Law describes
Bone remodeling has been applied to bone care related to physical therapy, osteoporosis, and bone fractures, but it is not always applicable.
Sugarman said it definitely does not apply to bone smashing.
“Bones generally grow from their growth plates, these are at the ends of bones. The middle of the bone has no growing potential, only healing,” he said.
Because of this, Sugarman said the likely result of breaking your bone and healing is about the same as it was before breaking it. Furthermore, the chance of bone smashing to restructure your face or body in a productive way is extremely unlikely.
“It is similar to dropping a mug on the floor and it magically turns into a teacup. There will be some swelling initially, but over a short period of time, it will go back to the way it was,” he said.
In rare cases, an orthopaedic surgeon will need to break a patient’s bone during a surgery to help fix an issue.
“For instance, a bone that was previously broken but healed in the wrong way may need to be reset, or bone will need to be cut to prepare it for a prosthetic hip or knee joint to be implanted, and yes, plastic surgeons will sometimes break a bone in an effort to improve someone’s aesthetic appearance,” said Zagrodzky.
However, he noted that having to break a bone for surgery is a rare and serious surgery that takes a lot of planning from a doctor, and if done improperly, can cause ongoing pain and discomfort.
In addition to the pain of breaking bones on purpose and severe bruising, other long-term complications and risks can occur, which may require more significant reconstructive surgeries to restore function, said Sugarman.
“A post-surgery facial scar would further contradict the intended goal of improved aesthetics. And without proper planning by a trained professional, the bones can grow back in a way that causes an unattractive disfiguration,” said Zagrodzky.
Irreversible nerve damage and internal or external bleeding may also occur.
For young people, the damage goes even further because before reaching adulthood, bones are growing and changing based on genetics. Damaging bone can disrupt or prevent the normal healthy growth trajectory of the bone, said Zagrodzky.
Additionally, growth plates remodel faster than other parts of the bone to accommodate the rapid period of growth experienced in puberty.
“Damaging a growth plate can slow down or stunt bone growth in the affected area,” said Zagrodzky.
While young people generally heal from injuries faster than older people, he noted that improperly breaking a bone as a teenager can cause it to heal faster in a less desirable way.
“The strength of the bones developed in the teenage years can set the stage for physical strength and athleticism throughout a person’s life. Developing a strong bone and bones in the adolescent years is extremely important,” he said.
Bone mineral density has been declining in humans, said Zagrodzky.
“Nonetheless, young people should be more concerned about developing strong healthy bones, as opposed to willfully breaking them,” Zagrodzky said. “For a healthy society, we need healthy people.”
Building strong bones generally requires proper nutrition and impact exercises, such as jumping or running.
“Our skeleton adds on calcium and strength only until the age of approximately 30 years old. After that we are only losing strength,” said Sugarman. “Good health is incredibly important in the young population, and the best thing we can do is have a healthy balanced diet with calcium and vitamin D.”
The TikTok trend “bone smashing” refers to people hitting themselves in the face with objects to improve their looks.
The misinformed theory behind bone smashing is that bones will heal in a more desirable alignment after being broken or fractured.
Experts say this trend is extremely dangerous and can result in permanent damage.