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Post-operative rehabilitation

Post-fracture rehabilitation encompasses a wide range of interventions depending on the type and severity of injury sustained. When a fracture occurs it is important to seek emergency treatment. Controlling the movement of the broken bone prevents further injury. Often fractures are treated with surgery. Following surgery, the person is placed in the care of a team of professionals consisting of a doctor, nursing staff, a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist.

Pain management during rehabilitation is an important consideration to allow the person to begin moving the injured part as quickly as possible. Pain may lead to guarding of the affected part, resulting in disuse. Pain is best managed with ice, heat, ultrasound, acupuncture, massage and other physiotherapy treatment techniques. This will help to make the patient more comfortable and therefore more tolerant to exercise. Pain controlling medication should also be made available to patients after surgery,

Following surgery a person may have some swelling (also referred to as oedema). This will be treated with ice, rest, compression and elevation.

Proper positioning is essential to reducing oedema. A person with an upper extremity fracture may have the limb immobilised in a sling, however the arm should be rested on pillows when the person is seated or lying down. It should never be allowed to hang down. For fractures of the lower extremity, the leg should be supported on a low stool during sitting and on pillows or bolsters when lying.

Early movement of the affected body part is essential to reduce oedema, prevent stiffness or atrophy from lack of use. Depending on the type of fracture, we may need to do passive range of movements, which means we move the limb through its available range of movement for you, without you having to contract your muscles to do so. Active range of movement follows as soon as possible, depending on the surgeon’s protocols. It is important for patients to go back to performing their normal ADLs (activities of daily living) as soon as they can to gain a feeling of independence as well as regaining function and strength.

Post-surgery rehabilitation may also involve getting rid of scar tissue which may build up when healing begins. We may use massage and deep frictions of the scarred area to soften scar tissue, followed by stretching. Active exercise against resistance is usually started about 6-8 weeks following surgery.

If you have sustained a fracture that required surgery, call us to find out how we can help with your rehabilitation back to normal function.


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