Physical therapy treatment for osteoporosis after a fracture
Angela Edney | posted March 21, 2012 |
Each year in the U.S., there are about 1.5 million osteoporosis-related fractures. Many people may not even know they have this bone-thinning disease until a fracture happens. It can be a rather disruptive experience, in terms of physical recovery and emotionally coping with the fear that future movement could cause another fracture.
Physical therapists can help with the physical and emotional recovery to give patients the mobility and confidence to enjoy their lives again. Physical recovery measures depend on the kind of fracture, the severity of it and whether surgery will be needed. To cope with the emotional aspect of the situation, a therapist can help the patient identify safe ways to move so that they have the confidence and assurance to move about conducting their day-to-day activities. Regaining this emotional stability and confidence is a really important part of the healing process.
About osteoporosis fractures
The most common osteoporosis-related fractures happen to the wrist, spine and hip bones. Each has its own unique characteristics.
Wrist or forearm: These fractures tend to happen more to people in their 50s and 60s. They generally recover easily, without the need for surgery or hospitalization. These fractures are typically the result of a fall.
Spine: Seen more often in older patients and can happen without a fall—just twisting or bending incorrectly can cause a spinal fracture in a person with osteoporosis. These fractures are often quite painful and necessitate recovery in a short-term/subacute care facility. These fractures may create a loss in height and difficulties performing day-to-day tasks.
Hip: This is the most complex of the fractures because a hip fracture tends to require the most care, such as hospitalization, surgery and rehab. About one in five people with an osteoporosis-related hip fracture needs rehab at a short-term care facility.
How physical therapy can help with osteoporosis
The physical therapist is part of a team of players that helps patients get back on their feet through a well thought-out treatment plan. This team often includes doctors, nurses and occupational therapists, as well. The first phase is pain control for the fracture. The second phase involves help and support regaining their range of motion and getting back any strength lost due to the fracture.
A physical therapist can help patients in these ways:
• Selecting a cane or walker that fits and is comfortable
• Using assistive devices to prevent another fall, like shower bars, a gripping device to reach high shelves or rails on patio stairs
• Learning new movement patterns that will help with pain reduction as well as help to prevent further injury
• Learning lifestyle and movement skills that will help prevent another fall
• Learning how to lift without using the back and move without twisting the spine
• Increasing confidence by learning these new skills and techniques
• Identifying exercises that can keep the person active, but safe from injury
Certainly, preventing fractures before they happen is best. If you do suffer a fracture, a physical therapist can be your best ally to help you heal properly and get advice on how to prevent future injuries.
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