The process of healing a bone fracture is most commonly determined by the type of bone fracture that occurred. Helping us understand different types of fractures, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), provides the following descriptions:
• The simplest type of fracture is defined as a non-displaced fracture. This means that the bone may be broken, but the pieces are still properly aligned within the body.
• The more complex fractures range from fractures that only include one break but are not properly aligned (displaced fractures), to a bone having multiple fractures, the fracture(s) affecting the soft tissue around the break, or even the fracture piercing the skin.
The more complex the fracture, the longer it will take for the bone to heal, which will mean activity will be curtailed for a longer time, increasing the possibility that physical therapy will be necessary to regain function.
Another factor that impacts the healing process, is where your fracture has occurred. For example, with a wrist or elbow fracture, it may be easy to walk around, but you will most likely have to limit the use of your wrist and arm. Your physical therapist can be of great help even while your arm is still in a cast, adapting your exercise regimen to remove any stress to the affected bones.
Lower extremity injuries, i.e., fractures below the belt, are more difficult to come back from — when you have a cast on your leg or even a walking boot, your mobility is more limited. Once you have been fitted with your cast, your physical therapist can teach you how best to move around given the limitations of your cast.
After a cast is removed, it’s normal to have some pain and stiffness in the affected area. Physical therapy will include a strengthening regimen to regain any muscle that was lost while the bone was healing and it can help you to regain strength and range of motion, allowing you to return to your previous level of activity.
Keep in mind that every fracture and every patient is different. Be sure to follow the directions from your physician and physical therapist carefully in order to recuperate safely. And if you have any pain for an extended period of time, whether while in a cast or after it has been removed, we encourage you to seek medical attention from your doctor.