The breaking of a bone is hardly a good experience. Apart from the initial pain and shock, there is the long road of recovery and adjustment, because a bone is a fragile thing and needs space and time to rebuild strength. During this time an individual may be considerably compromised with regard to lifestyle and general engagement with society in the normal way.
The psychological impact of this can be as limiting and difficult as the bone breakage itself. This time of recovery can elicit fear of falling, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, depression and anxiety. And if your broken bone is the result of osteoporosis, then your self-image can be irreparably damaged – seeing yourself as more fragile than before.
Loss of self-esteem and adjustments to a new way of coping tend to foster negative attitudes to life, the universe and everything. Coping with this is probably a greater issue than the broken bone, which left to its own devices will heal with the right care and attention. The emotional toll of osteoporosis is real. Depression is common in people with this disease. But depression is a powerful emotion, and cannot be allowed to linger as you heal.
Ways to counter the emotional effects of a broken bone
- Firstly, it’s important to know that depression can affect anyone with broken bones, whether caused by osteoporosis or not. If you are aware of this creeping problem while you are trying to heal, it makes it easier to find ways to cope with it, because you will know that you are not alone in your experience.
- Considering therapy during this time is also a positive route to decide upon. This helps you to connect with others, and to understand that there are solutions you can try. Joining a group is helpful because you’re able to share concerns and fears with others who are going through the same difficulties. You can even start your own group, bringing people together, finding strength and friendship together – and boosting self-esteem and mood, and relieving anxiety and stress.
- Join an exercise programme especially for the rehabilitation of bones, and which helps you to focus on any particular set of exercises designed for whichever bone or bones you have broken. Ask your doctor about exercises that are safe for you. By being active, you can keep your body strong and help beat back depressionat the same time.
- Sometimes depression and feelings of inadequacy can last beyond the repair of the bones. It cannot be assumed that because a patient reports their muscles and bones are feeling better, that they are actually fully recovered. There may be a lasting scar mentally that prevents survivors from fully re-engaging back in life even as the physical body is healing. Keeping up contact and social engagement becomes very important for people who may be suffering lingering feelings of isolation, loneliness and frustration.
- Very often orthopaedic surgeons may treat the bone injury but may miss the emotional trauma a patient might be going through. It’s best to always discuss any concerns you have about recovery experience, and how long it might take to get back into a normal, active life. If you are experiencing hardships with your treatment and recovery programme, reach out to the medical staff – many will have contacts to provide you with help in a variety of ways, such as help at home, or connections with psychologist trained in helping people through debilitating injuries.
- If you are elderly, and the fracture you are experiencing is due to age and osteoporosis, you might not only suffer the shock of the injury and difficulties of recovery – but also the life changes you may need to make to have the care and attention required when coping with a new lifestyle.
- Many people at this point have to sell their homes and move to a facility where they will have a smaller living space but full-time care or companionship. Added to treatments and therapy is the emotion of changing one’s entire life – leaving one’s home and belongings and moving to an area less familiar. The cost of a broken bone can be so much more than just the event itself, or the medical bills that follow – the emotional cost of change, and perhaps lifelong disability must be considered and dealt with in the best possible way.
- The major key to these circumstances is keeping contact with others, reaching out for connection, advice and encouragement from people who are trained to assist, together with people who have already gone through the process – or currently experiencing the process. It is vital to keep a positive outlook through information, exercise, and the upliftment of friendship.
NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)
NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.