Anyone can break a bone children, adults and the elderly, whether they are playing sport or simply walking down the street. A break or fracture (these terms are the same) can be simple or complicated but always requires some treatment. Most commonly this will be with a plaster cast, although more complicated fractures may be treated with internal fixation. This means an operation to hold the parts of the bone together with plates or screws.

Sources of problems

Holding limbs still to allow bones to heal can lead to problems of stiffness and weakness while immobilised and afterwards. Swelling after injury or operation can also lead to pain and stiffness. Suitable advice and exercises can help prevent long-term problems.

Physiotherapy treatment

Usually begins once the plaster cast has been removed, or after any necessary operation. The aim of physiotherapy is to restore normal movement, strength and function in the injured limb. So if you break your arm at the wrist, this might include treatment for the elbow, shoulder hand and wrist, depending on how the arm was injured and the type of treatment you have had. Typically this will be in the form of massage, exercises at home and in the clinic, and advice. For leg fractures it will include regaining a normal walking pattern, balance re-education and improving posture and strength.

Physiotherapists can help you to understand what exercise is safe, how much you should use the limb, how much weight to carry on it or lean through it, and advice when to stop using a sling or crutches. Graded, specific exercise helps you to get movement and strength back quickly and to use the limb in a normal way in every day activities.

Some people may need help while still in a plaster cast maybe to keep fingers or shoulders moving in a wrist fracture, or to assist walking and maintaining knee movement in an ankle fracture. We can also advise on controlling swelling, and on exercise for un-injured limbs to maintain strength.

Further information

For other issues relating to bone injury and fracture see: “osteoporosis” and “joint replacement.”

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