Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
Physical therapy will help you keep your muscles, joints and bones from stiffening and weakening. Fractures may take 6-12 months to fully heal, and rehabilitation should be continued for as long as you continue to make gains from it. You will be given individualized exercises, as well as occupational therapy by trained healthcare professionals. These specialists will get you back to normal faster and ensure that you can carry out everyday functions, like combing your hair, eating, and bathing (for arm and wrist fractures). They will also help get you standing, walking, and sitting comfortably (for lower body fractures such as those of the pelvis, hip, knee, leg and ankle).
If you have had a hip replacement, or if your fractures are in your backbone, you will probably be encouraged to stand up, put your full weight on the injured areas and walk with a walker within a few days of your injury and surgery. Getting out of bed and moving will help you to avoid complications such as blood clots and hospital-induced delirium.
A physical therapist will teach you how to use the walker safely and securely. You may need it for about 6-12 weeks. Afterwards, you will walk with a cane and should eventually be able to walk without any aids if you were able to do so before your fracture. Intensive physical therapy—with rehabilitation at least once a day and preferably more often—is known to help speed recovery and lead to an earlier discharge from hospital.
Reduce Risk Factors
If your fracture was the result falling, make sure that your doctor checks your walking ability, balance, vision, hearing, and other factors that can put you at risk for another fall. To reduce your fall and fracture risk even more:
- Step up your physical activity. Do weight-bearing exercises such as walking (at least 5 times per week for 30 minutes each time). Start gradually.
- Do exercises to improve your balance (Tai Chi classes can help).
- Have your blood pressure checked.
- Get plenty of daily calcium (1,200-1,500 mg) and vitamin D (800- 2000 IU).
- Fix any tripping hazards in your home (loose rugs, wires, dark stairways).
- Stop smoking if you still smoke and stay away from alcohol and sleep medications.
If you are not able to get out of bed for a long time, the risks of a dangerous blood clots, pneumonia, mental confusion, constipation, and bed sores increase, particularly in older people. The risk of blood clot is also higher if you suffer from cancer, if you are obese, or if you have a hip fracture or a hip replacement. This is why your healthcare team will encourage you to get up and about as soon after your injury as possible. You may also be given a blood thinner to reduce the chance of a blood clot.
Caregiver and Family Assistance
Before you leave the hospital, a case worker will evaluate your home situation to make sure that you will be able to manage. You may be sent to a rehabilitation residence temporarily until you can function on your own at home. Make sure that you have adequate help if you need it before you leave the hospital, and that any changes to your furniture (raised seating, bathing accommodations) have been arranged.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012