Last time, we explored how the body is weakened due to immobilization after suffering a bone fracture. This week, we will explore the role of the physical therapist in injury recovery following a fracture.
The Role of Physical Therapy in Orthopedic Rehabilitation after a Fracture
After a limb fracture, the first time you see a physical therapist will usually be in the hospital. The role of the PT at this stage is to explain your limitations and how to move about with the various assistive devices the doctor may prescribe.
If your arm is fractured, your doctor will likely require you to keep your arm in a sling in order to protect it and keep it in an optimal healing position. A physical therapist may teach you how to apply and remove the sling.
If it is a lower extremity fracture, such as a foot, ankle, or leg, the amount of weight you can put on the affected leg will be limited. If you break an ankle, leg, or foot, the PT can instruct you in how to walk with a cane or crutches. Your physical therapist can explain weight bearing restrictions and can teach you how to move about while still maintaining these restrictions. This includes how to get into and out of a car, or use your assistive device to negotiate stairs.
Previously simple movements may suddenly become much more difficult to accomplish, and learning a new skill takes practice, so be sure to ask any questions you may have. Also, it is a good idea to practice using your assistive device in the presence of your physical therapist so she can answer your questions or help you if you stumble.
When you leave the hospital after a fracture, your doctor may order home care physical therapy. This is usually reserved for patients who are housebound as a result of their injury.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve your overall muscle strength and endurance or to strengthen the muscles connected with the fracture site. He can also help you master the use of an assistive device in your home environment.
Your doctor may have prescribed specific weight-bearing restrictions that you must follow if your injury is in the lower extremities. After an arm or shoulder fracture, lifting restrictions may be imposed. In either case, the PT can help you maintain these restrictions to ensure that you do not over-exert yourself or put excessive stress on the healing limb.
The physical therapist can also assess your home environment and make recommendations for minor adjustments to allow you to move safely around your home.
After your cast is removed, it is time to begin mobilizing the area around the fracture. If you are able to leave home for therapy, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapy clinic to help restore your strength and mobility to normal function.
Load-bearing or lifting restrictions may still be in effect during this time, so be sure to consult with your doctor to understand what limitations remain.
When you first visit with your physical therapist, she will usually conduct an assessment and evaluation. This may include measurements of body parts around the fracture site. The PT will usually assess your:
Pain and swelling
Range of motion
Gait (for lower extremity fractures)
Based on the initial evaluation, your physical therapist will work with you to develop a treatment strategy to help you fully recover.
Next time, we will go over specific rehabilitation methods used by physical therapists in fracture recovery. We will explain how physical therapy can help restore strength, range of motion, and mobility after a bone fracture.
If you have suffered a bone fracture and are in need of post-treatment physical therapy, visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive personalized care from an experienced, professional physical therapist!