Breaking any bone in your body is certainly a traumatic experience for anyone. Age will be a factor in the likelihood of a fracture occurring, with children and older people more at risk than others. The fractures that children experience are often incomplete fractures, however, as the bones of a child are still somewhat flexible; if only one side of the bone has actually broken, it is called a greenstick fracture.
Older people also are more prone to fracturing their bones as the bones become more brittle and less flexible as we age. It might come as a surprise to you to learn that, on average, each person experiences 2 bone fractures during their lifetime.
Type of Bone Fractures
Bone fractures can actually encompass a number of possibilities, some of them more serious than others, and these factors will influence not only initial treatment, but length of recovery time, and the need for aftercare.
- A simple fracture is a clean break across the shortest axis of the bone, and is sometimes referred to as a ‘clean break’. The two sections of the bone are usually still in contact with one another, or very closely so.
- Compound fractures are more serious; in this case, the bone has separated completely and broken through the skin. The great danger with compound, or open, fractures is the possibility of infection, especially in the bone itself.
- When the bone breaks into a number of pieces, it is called a comminuted fracture. These fractures often result from serious vehicular accidents.
- Compression fractures are found in the neck and spine. These fractures consist of hairline cracks in the bone that occur as the vertebrae are crushed together. While osteoporosis is the most common cause of these, they can also result from injury.
Treatment for fractures, except for compression fractures, will usually consist of setting the bone back to the correct position and then applying a cast to hold the bone immobile while it heals. Healing will take weeks in most cases, although it can take months for serious fractures to heal.
Sometimes, the patient must be placed in traction to keep the ligaments and muscles straight while the bone knits. Surgery will be necessary for some fractures, usually compound or comminuted fractures.
Use Massage Therapy after a Fracture
Fractures will always cause a certain amount of pain during the healing process, and this is normal, while unpleasant. During the time it takes for the fracture to heal, muscles and ligaments will contract, and the muscles will atrophy to an extent.
Immobility also means that less oxygen will be delivered to the limb, which also delays recovery and magnifies secondary problems. Fluid tends to build up in the injured area, which will increase discomfort and slow down healing.
After the cast is removed, and you have received permission from your healthcare provider, it’s time to treat that healing fracture to massage therapy. You will undoubtedly be aware of sensitivity and weakness in the affected area, and this is exactly what your massage therapist will begin to address. Massage therapy can help to restore function to the site in several ways:
- Tightened ligaments and muscles can be loosened up by the use of massage therapy, making the recovery of weakened and tight, painful muscles much faster.
- Trigger points can also develop when the area has been inactive for some time, and these extremely painful ‘pinpoints’ are very responsive to treatment by your therapist.
- Massage will stimulate circulation to the area, bringing more oxygen to cells and tissues to speed healing.
- Edema, fluid buildup, is a real problem when there has been a fracture. Massage therapy assists to drain off this excess lymph to improve comfort and assist in the healing process.
- Regardless of whether or not your fracture has been treated surgically, the skin in the affected spot can become fragile, itchy, and sensitive. Massage can help to improve the integrity of the skin and speed its rehabilitation.
In some cases, massage is allowed even before the cast is removed, and the massage therapist will work around the cast to help increase circulation and reduce lymph. Keep in mind that written permission for massage therapy must be provided by your physician before your massage therapist can begin.