Fractures

Lifestyle & Management

Rehabilitation

Physical therapy and/or occupational therapy may be ordered for you after your fracture.  These trained healthcare professionals 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. The therapists will get you back to normal faster and make sure that you can carry out everyday functions.  An occupational therapist will help you improve activities to keep you independent like combing your hair, eating, dressing, and bathing (for arm and wrist fractures).  A physical therapist will 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/or 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. Afterward, 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 provides rehabilitation at least once a day and preferably more often. This is known to help speed recovery and can lead to an earlier discharge from the hospital.  

Reduce Risk Factors

If your fracture was the result of 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 (such as Tai Chi classes).
  • Have your blood pressure checked if you feel dizzy or lightheaded when you stand up after sitting or lying down.
  • Take calcium (1,200-1,500 mg) and vitamin D (800- 2000 IU) daily.
  • Fix any tripping hazards in your home (such as loose rugs, wires, or dark stairways).
  • Stop smoking if you still smoke, and stay away from alcohol and sleep medications. 
  • Ask your healthcare provider to review the medications you take -- the risk of falls increases in older adults who take more than 3 or 4 medications of any type.
  • Keep in mind that older adults may be particularly vulnerable to falls after a new medication is started or when the dosage of an existing medication is increased.

Complications

Spending more time in bed after a fracture increases your risk of dangerous blood clots, pneumonia, mental confusion, constipation, and bed sores., Older people are particularly at risk for developing these complications. The risk of developing these blood clots 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 developing a blood clot.

Caregiver and Family Assistance

Before you leave the hospital, your healthcare team should evaluate your home situation to make sure that you will be able to get the care you need. Your team may recommend that you continue your rehabilitation at a skilled nursing facility temporarily until you can function on your own at home. If you go straight home from the hospital, make sure that you have adequate help at home if you need it before you leave, and that any changes to your furniture (such as raised seating or bathing accommodations) have been arranged.

 

Last Updated January 2017