Exercise and physical activity are so important to your overall health and well-being that the simple answer is "no." However, if you break your hip, then your legs will be immobilized before surgery and immediately afterward (see Question 78). Probably you will be encouraged to move your upper body, and you may need to shift in bed using a "trapeze" over your head. Even though you may not be using a walker immediately, you do need to retain your upper body strength so that when you do get moving, you will be strong enough to support yourself. One of the reasons that it's so important to keep a well-conditioned upper body is that you never know when you may need to rely on your arms to help you move around.
A broken wrist will prevent you from doing many activities, but regular exercise doesn't need to be one of them. Obviously, you can't swim or lift weights with the affected arm. However, walking, stationary biking, and other activities that don't require the use of your arm can keep you in good physical shape. A cast can cause poor balance, making it more likely that you will fall. So, running and any sport that requires running would be best to avoid until your wrist is completely healed.
If you break a bone in your spine, you will probably not be able to continue your regular exercise routine, particularly if you need to wear a back brace. If you are accustomed to walking or other weight-bearing exercise, you should continue to walk, but instead of 30 minutes at a time, try a few minutes per hour. Sitting for long periods without movement can actually cause more pain and stiffness. Be very aware of your posture as you sit and walk, and keep your head up and your spine straight. Keeping your shoulders back and your abdominal muscles pulled in will also increase your back muscle strength to support your spine. You can do some gentle arm and shoulder exercises when you are sitting but use pain as your guide. If just lifting a teacup causes pain, then activities using the arms and shoulders may need to be avoided for a while. Some experts suggest partial squat exercises, which help to increase the strength of your thigh muscles, without causing additional stress on the spine.
78. I always hear about older folks fracturing their hips. Is this because of osteoporosis or because of the frequency of falls? How are broken hips repaired?
Almost 350,000 people are hospitalized for hip fractures in the United States every year, and most of them are women over the age of 65. White women are hospitalized for hip fracture at a rate five times that of black women. However, black women have more disability and death related to their fractures than white women. If you are a black woman, you are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from a hip fracture than your white counterpart.
Breaking a hip may be the first sign that someone has osteoporosis.
Because 95% of hip fractures occur as a result of falls, it is important to look at ways of preventing them (see Question 79). Breaking a hip may be the first sign that someone has osteoporosis. If you have already lost 30% to 40% of the bone in your hip, then bone loss may be visible on the x-ray. If your hip fracture occurs from a low level of trauma (like falling out of bed), you may be diagnosed with osteoporosis without having a bone density test done. If not, then you may not be officially diagnosed with osteoporosis until a bone mineral density test confirms it, although it's unlikely that BMD testing would be done while you're in the hospital. As part of your hip fracture management, you may be placed on a medication to treat osteoporosis (see Question 74).
If you fall, the signs and symptoms that you may have a hip fracture include severe pain in the hip or groin, inability to bear weight, a shortened leg on the side with the potential fracture, and bruising or swelling in the groin. Sometimes the position of your leg (turning inward or outward) after falling or trauma can be a clue for your clinician to the possibility of hip fracture. Figure 11 shows the normal pelvis, hips, and usual locations of hip fractures.
In people who are likely to have severe complications related to surgery, orthopedic surgeons use a traction (tension) system to help the hip fracture heal. But the extended immobility associated with this treatment has its own complications. Being immobile for a long time can lead to blood clots, urinary incontinence, loss of muscle conditioning, pneumonia, pressure sores (bedsores), depression, social isolation, and greater bone loss. Unfortunately, once you fracture your hip or any other bone, you are at greater risk of fracturing a bone again.
The surgical treatment of your hip fracture will depend on the sites of the fracture. If you fracture the femoral neck (Figure 11), you may have a screw inserted, a partial hip replacement, or a total hip replacement. The total hip replacement involves replacing both the upper part of your femur bone, the "ball" of the bone, and the socket into which the ball fits. If you break the intertrochanteric part of the bone (Figure 11), you are likely to have a special compression screw inserted with a metal plate to keep the edges of the bone together.
The recovery time in the hospital after surgery is usually about one week. If you don't have someone to assist you at home, a nursing home or rehabilitation center stay may be required so that you can also get the necessary physical therapy. Hip fractures can cause considerable expense and disability, not to mention social isolation, depression, and even death. As you age, you should make every effort to avoid falls and to strengthen your bones so that if you do fall, you will be less likely to break a bone again.
The physical recovery from hip fractures may take less time than the emotional aftereffects of having a fracture. Fractures can interfere significantly with your independence. The realization that you can no longer do for yourself what you've always done can be devastating. In a study of previously independent adults following hip fractures, two thirds of them were unable to get on and off the toilet without help 12 months after the fracture, and 83% could not bathe or shower by themselves. No wonder depression can set in! A vicious cycle of fear, isolation, dependence, and depression can result. In the event of a hip fracture in yourself or in a loved one, you should pay attention to the very real possibility of depression:
I really can understand why people with depression get osteoporosis or why people with osteoporosis get depressed. It's so sad and depressing when you stay home and don't get out and get moving. Exercise doesn't just help you feel better physically and help you sleep better—exercise makes you feel so much better about yourself. It's good for me to get out of the house. Taking classes is such a good thing to do socially. I enjoy being with other people. Occasionally someone will join our water exercise class and might be withdrawn and reluctant to be there for whatever reason. After a few classes when we call each other by name, they really start to enjoy themselves. When I try to do the exercises by myself, Ifind I don't stick with finishing the exercises, work as hard, or enjoy it nearly as much as I do when I take a class with others. In our area, if you cant drive yourself to exercise classes, there is a bus for seniors that can take you to "health-related" activities, like medical appointments and the pharmacy. I cant think of anything more ".health-related" than exercise! Going to a scheduled exercise class gives me someplace specific to go. When I get home, I tell my husband about the people I saw, maybe a joke I heard, and it really gives us something to talk about every day. I have also found that exercising helps me sexually. Sex is so much more comfortable when I'm feeling fit and good about myself. My feeling is that we're all going to have aches and pains, and sometimes it feels easier to stay home and not do anything, but you know what? You're going to have those aches and pains no matter what, so you may as well live well, get out with others, and have a good time.
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