What is a fracture ?
A fracture is a broken bone. The term fracture means the same as broken.
How do fractures happen?
Bones are incredibly strong and it normally takes a significant accident to cause a break. If you have broken a bone, you should have been seen by a health care professional qualified to diagnose the problem. Identifying a fracture normally involves taking an x-ray.
How are fractures treated?
As part of the treatment for your fracture, you should have been seen by a medical professional (normally a specialist doctor) who would have made a decision with you as to how it is best to treat the problem. Most fractures are treated with either immobilisation (keeping it still with a plaster cast or a sling) or surgery.
How long does a fracture take to heal?
Bone generally takes about 6 weeks to heal. Some health issues such as diabetes or smoking can change this, meaning healing might take a while longer.
What can I do to help my fracture heal?
You can help your body heal the fracture by making sure you exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, make sure you get good refreshing sleep and eat healthily (i.e. reduce your sugar and processed foods).
A referral to physiotherapy is likely after your fracture has either healed or it has been agreed by the specialist doctor responsible for your care. Sometimes this might be before the 6 weeks have been completed.
When should I start moving again?
Make sure that you keep the rest of your body moving as normally as you can whilst you are recovering from your fracture.
In some cases, you don’t have to wait until the fracture is fully healed before you can start exercising the problem area. This will vary from person to person but early exercise can help the body heal the fracture even better. Some people will have to wait until the plaster is removed or the doctor has specifically said that physiotherapy should begin.
After some fractures, people are given a specific set of instructions from their doctor or medical team. It is sensible to continue with these until you have spoken with your physiotherapist.
What should I expect?
Discomfort: It is very normal to experience discomfort after a fracture, even after the fracture has healed. It can be quite worrying if you are still experiencing discomfort but it is likely that it will improve with time and gentle movement. If your discomfort is not under control or worsening, you should contact your GP.
Swelling: It is very normal to have swelling . As part of the healing process, your body creates swelling and this can still be visible long after the fracture has healed. It often does not mean that anything is going wrong even though it might not look very nice.
Stiffness: It is very common to find that you are stiff after having a fracture, especially if you have had a period of time where you have not moved the problem area due to a plaster cast or sling. Gentle movement and time are very effective at improving stiffness. However, sometimes it can take some time.
Recovery: A fracture is a break in a bone. This can sometimes mean that the bone or the joint involved might have to work differently as a result and often this varies depending on what part of the body was affected. Although it is always the aim of health care, after a fracture 100% recovery of movement, strength and ability might not be possible. Working hard, being patient and realistic will often help you achieve the best outcome possible.
Is it safe to exercise?
If you have been referred to physiotherapy, it is likely that you would have been advised on exercise that might help your recovery. Exercise is the best medicine for your body and is good for helping people improve after a fracture. It is likely that, at first, the exercises might be hard work and maybe uncomfortable but often being patient with yourself and persevering will get the best results. If your exercises program is causing you significant problems, please discuss this with your physiotherapist.
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