Fractures – recovery tips

Tips for recovering from a fracture

  • During the early part of your recovery from a fracture, you may need to spend a few days resting the affected area.
  • However, once your fracture has begun healing, your healthcare provider will give you special exercises to:
    • help you regain your normal flexibility and/or range of joint motion around the injured area
    • prevent your muscles from becoming weak and unable to support your healing bone.
  • Here are some tips to help you recover from a fracture.
Healthcare professional guides man doing arm exercises
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The best path to recovery is to follow your healthcare provider's advice. Recovery will be different for everyone, because it depends on:

  • the type of fracture
  • the location of the fracture (eg, leg, arm, wrist, ankle)
  • when the fracture happened (how far along the healing process you are)
  • your current health condition.

Recovery can feel like it takes forever, but slowly and steadily you will be able to return to your normal daily tasks.

Although you might not feel like it, after a few days' rest it's important to start bringing movement back into the affected area.

Your healthcare provider will probably suggest you start slowly, beginning with easy tasks to help improve strength and flexibility without damaging the healing bone. At first these exercises may feel awkward and uncomfortable but try to stick with them – they will pay off in the long term by making you stronger and more mobile.

If you experience pain or extreme discomfort when doing the exercises, see your healthcare provider for advice. They may need to assess how your fracture is healing or suggest other exercises for you. 

Is your arm in a sling? Or are you using a walker or cane to move around? Or are you simply getting around a bit slower?

Getting help to make a few of the following changes around your home will make it easier for you to get around and may prevent a trip or fall:

  • Move your furniture. Make a wide path in every room.
  • If you have stairs, shift your bed to the ground floor until you’re healed and can use the stairs again.
  • Remove clutter, such as piles of clothes or books or any item that could trip you up.
  • Secure loose rugs. Use double-sided tape around the edges of large rugs. Put your small rugs away until you’re healed, these can trip you up and cause a fall.
  • Improve your lighting. Check that your rooms, doorways and hallways have enough light. Install nightlights for after dark.
  • Make sure stairs have handrails on both sides.
  • Put grab bars in your shower. You don’t want to break/fracture another bone while you’re healing this one!
  • Keep your phone nearby. Always have your mobile or cordless phone nearby – you never know when you may need help.

Video: Broken ankle recovery – handy tips

In this video, Sue Wells talks about 6 things that helped make life easier after she broke her ankle. This video may take a few moments to load.

Health Navigator Charitable Trust, 2015

Making some of the changes suggested below can help you remain independent and keep your normal routine. An occupational therapist can show you how to safely perform common tasks – these methods will depend on the bone you have broken.

Tips for food shopping

  • Have family/whānau and friends get your groceries, or do your food shopping online for delivery or pick up.
  • Buy foods that are be easy to prepare, such as healthy, microwaveable meals.
  • Buy pre-washed and pre-chopped fruit and vegetables to make cooking faster.

Tips for meal preparation

  • Use a high stool with back support so you can sit comfortably when preparing meals.
  • Move all dishes and pans from the cupboards to the bench for easy access.
  • Rather than lifting pots and pans, try sliding them along the bench instead.

Tips for showering and bathing

  • Get a long-handled sponge to help you wash those hard to reach areas such as your feet, neck and back.
  • Put a non-slip mat in your bath and shower.
  • Make sure your floor mats have rubber on their underside, so they don’t slide around and increase your chance of a fall.
  • Try a bath chair and/or hand-held sprayer so you can be sitting while you wash.
  • If you have a spine or hip fracture, add a high toilet seat so you can get on and off more easily.

Tips for putting on your shoes

  • Use a long-handled shoehorn to put your shoes on – it's much easier than bending over.
  • Buy elastic shoelaces so you can slide into lace-up shoes more easily.
  • Low-heeled, strong shoes reduce your chance of a fall. 

Tips for getting dressed

  • Put your clothes on using a dressing stick with hooks or pinchers.
  • Wear loose clothes that can fit over your sling, brace or cast. 

Tips for transport

  • If your injury is covered by ACC, ask them if they can help you with transport. Find out more from ACC on transport and getting around after an injury(external link)(external link).
  • Ask family/whānau and friends for car rides. Remember, you would do the same for them and it makes them feel good to help you.
  • Find transportation services for older adults online from local organisations.

The good news is you can probably return to driving once you’ve finished your pain medicines and you’re able to:

  • sit comfortably
  • twist your body so you can see over your shoulder
  • step on your brakes quickly to stop suddenly.

Tips for physical activity and fresh air

  • Do your physical/occupational therapy exercises every day.
  • Do them at a time of day when your pain levels are lowest.
  • Go outside – for walks (if you can), or sit on a stable chair so you can enjoy the fresh air.

Tips for your mental wellbeing

  • Read, try Sudoku, do quizzes or crossword puzzles or play an online game.
  • Keep in touch with friends – give a friend a phone call at least once a day.
  • Go to social events – such as lunches or dinners with friends or family/whānau.

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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