Fractures and breaks – how can physio help?

Sometimes it can be tricky to think up a topic for the blog, and then there are the times a friend fractures their elbow and an idea presents itself.

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In this blog we’ll look at common types of fractures or breaks and the role that physio can play in helping get back to normal.

Firstly – what’s the difference between a fractured and broken bone? Well, nothing. There are many different classifications of fracture, such as transverse, oblique, spiral and comminuted.

People tend to refer to a break as one where the fracture crosses the entire diameter of the bone, but in fact it is not an official medical classification. This photo shows the fracture that inspired this blog – a radial head fracture in the elbow.

For those unfortunate enough to suffer a serious fracture, surgery may be required when the bone is at risk of not healing in the right position. Other fractures may need putting in a cast and some require nothing but time (and of course excellent physio).

Healing normally takes anywhere from 3-12 weeks and is affected by many aspects including the type and severity of fracture, along with the type of bone as those with a better blood supply heal much faster. The repair process is very much a knitting process as shown in this excellent animation.


The remodelling works in a similar way to how muscles get stronger through training – so the bone gets stronger as you put stresses through it such as weight-bearing, strength training and impact exercise.

The role of physio

For many fractures the majority of the healing process is spent with the bone immobilised – which results in muscles, ligaments and tendons all stiffening up and the joint or limb in question loses a lot of its initial range of movement.

Physio can help regain this movement as well as strength naturally lost through the reduction in muscle use. With the healing process taking up to 12 weeks in total, physio can play a key part in helping rebuild strength, starting gradually and ensuring that you come back stronger as a result. As every fracture is different there are no generic exercises we would recommend, instead speaking to your physio can ensure the right kind of programme and progress to help get you back to normal as quickly as possible.

 

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