Anyone who has had a broken limb is familiar with the setting and healing process. After a fracture, you go to a doctor who stabilizes or immobilizes the bone. This is necessary to assure proper setting of the bone (this is called “reduction” in MediSpeak). You also get a cast and often a sling or brace, and then you are off to the races, so to speak (well, maybe in a wheelchair).
But how many of us utilize physical therapy after the cast comes off? Did you know this was an option, or even why it’s a good idea? Lets’ find out together.
In this series, we will explore the benefits of physical therapy after a fracture. Unlike most other subjects we examine, getting into the causes and symptoms is unnecessary to the subject because – let’s face it; there are hundreds, maybe thousands of ways to break one’s limbs. This time, we will just focus on the goals, methods, and benefits of post-fracture physical therapy.
Bone Fractures 101:
Let’s face it; fractures hurt. Medically speaking, fractures occur when a traumatic force is applied to the body in such a manner that the underlying bones are unable to tolerate the force.
As we already established, there are more ways in which trauma can cause fractures than I could possibly enumerate. Automobile accidents, falling accidents, and sports injuries are some of the more common methods of breaking bones.
If you have suffered a fracture you will undoubtedly head straight to your doctor or local emergency room. Initially, your doctor will treat the fracture by reducing it - putting the bones in the proper position and setting them. Normally, this is accomplished manually, but if the fracture is severe enough, it may require surgery.
After reduction, the doctor will immobilize the fractured limb to ensure proper healing can take place. This means that the patient will be fitted with a cast or brace. If we are talking about an arm injury, this will usually require the wearing of a sling while the fracture heals. A physical therapist can teach you how to properly size and wear your sling.
Why Post-Fracture Physical Therapy?
While it is relatively uncommon for most people to relate bone fractures with physical therapy, it is a great idea for all fracture injuries and, in fact; can be a critical step in recovery for certain specific injuries.
When the body has experienced enough trauma to fracture a bone, other soft tissues and connected structures will have unfortunately been damaged in the process. On top of that, the limb is immobilized for six to eight weeks. This invariably results in considerably weakened muscles and stiff joints. Depending on the exact injury location, range of motion will often suffer as well.
So what are the goals of post-fracture physical therapy? Most commonly; the therapist seeks to:
Decrease pain and swelling,
Restore normal range of motion (ROM),
Restore strength, and
Restore function in the limb
Physical therapy for a limb fracture generally starts after the brace or cast has been removed.
Next time, we will examine the role of physical therapy in recovery after a fracture. And if you have suffered a bone fracture and are contemplating post-treatment physical therapy, don’t wait for your family physician; visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive personalized care from an experienced, professional physical therapist!