Fracturing Osteoporosis: Can I still exercise?

Once you are diagnosed with Osteoporosis, exercise becomes key in strengthening the body to help avoid those events that may result in a bone fracture. One can approach those exercises with care but also a fair amount of confidence because, after all, no damage has been done – yet.

However, once a fracture has taken place, your awareness is heightened by fears that any exercise may cause further stress to the damaged bone. Exercising for mended bones is still important, and although the approach may have to be adjusted, the goal is still to make positive strides towards a stronger bone and muscle structure.

Once you know how to exercise taking your specific injury into account, you will conquer your fears and begin to enjoy the power you can achieve by using simple, carefully controlled movements. Undemanding exercises done at home can make a significant difference in recovering from fractures. Always be sure to give your body the best chance of healing by tailoring your exercises to suit your specific need.

Wrist Fractures

Once your cast is off, there are four very cautious and useful exercises that you can do. Begin with exercises that improve your range of motion and decrease stiffness. However, don’t exert too much pressure. Always wait until you can effect repetition of a movement without discomfort.

Wrist turning: Keep your hands flat in front of you, then turn the hands to the left, then back to the middle, and then to the right.

Wrist flexing: Let your wrists hang limp, and then bring your hands upright to point the fingers at the ceiling.

Wrist curling: Sit with your palms facing towards you, curl in the fingers, then curl the wrist upwards towards you.

Wrist squeezing: Find something firm, like a rubber ball, and gently squeeze it in one hand and then the other. Try to reach ten times for each hand.

Spinal Fractures

Your spine has 24 vertebrae. If one of these bones should crack due to a disease like Osteoporosis, it is called a spinal compression fracture. Your doctor may wait for 6-8 weeks before prescribing physiotherapy. The idea is to introduce you slowly to various exercises that will increase flexibility, strength and improve posture. It will, however, take some time before you are able to perform daily tasks with some ease, thus, it’s important that rehabilitation does not begin until the fracture is healed. As with any bone break, care should be taken not to overload the site of the fracture.

Ankle Fractures

As with any fracture of bones, it is important that swelling, pain, strength and stiffness are addressed following the removal of the plaster.

  • Exercises that improve your range of motion include ankle circles and point-and-flex stretches – but only as your pain level allows it.
  • Soaking your foot and ankle in warm water may help to reduce the pain and make moving your ankle easier.
  • It is normal to get some pain and discomfort after your fracture if painkillers have been prescribed it is best to take them – managing the pain will assist you to continue and complete your exercises.
  • Swelling after breaking bones can be quite normal – and can last for up to one year during recovery.
  • Always elevate your foot whenever you can. Ice wrapped in a towel can help to reduce swelling.
  • Remember, exercise after a fracture is vital to restoring functionality and reducing stiffness.

Hip Fractures

One of the simplest exercises you can do is walking – slowly, and perhaps with support to begin with, but walking a little further each day.

Standing exercises: 1) Stand with sturdy support like a countertop, move your mended leg slightly to the side and touch your toes to the floor. 2) Move your leg straight out behind you, then return to position. 3) Lift your knee up, hold it for a count of five, and bring back to standing position. 4) Bend your knee, and bring your heel up towards the back of your thigh, hold for a count of five, and return to standing position.

Sitting exercises: 1) Sitting on a steady chair with your thigh supported, lift one foot and straighten your knee. Hold for a count of five. Slowly lower your foot to the floor. Repeat. 2) Sitting with your feet on a smooth surface, slowly slide one foot back as far as possible. Hold for a count of five, then return to position. 3) With your feet flat on the floor, push up with both arms on either side to lift yourself slightly off the chair. Hold for a count of three, then slowly lower yourself back to the seated position.

The Amazing benefits of Weight-Bearing Exercises

When recovering from a fracture, it’s best to start with simple exercises and stretching movements to regain flexibility without pain in the initial stage. Only once you feel the area has strengthened enough, you can consider the best exercise of all for your bones, that of weight-bearing exercises.

Walking, climbing stairs, and resistance training with weights – this is the most valuable way to help your bones and muscles build mass and strength, and improve mobility and balance. Patients are advised to undertake intensive resistance exercises for between 6 – 12 months following surgery. This will improve your ability to get up, walk, climb stairs, and do household tasks, depending on which specific bones you may have fractured.

Bones are designed to support your body – and, in fact, enjoy being put under a certain amount of stress. They react to an increase in load (properly effected) by growing stronger. Consequently, exercise will do little to strengthen unless the load is slightly above normal. Exercises can begin with something as light as a book, and progress to greater stress slowly as the area strengthens and you gain more confidence. Visit ‘Too Fit To Fracture’ for a range of exercises and advice.

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.

Find out more about our work at www.osteoporosis.org.za