If a hip or pelvic fracture is nondisplaced, meaning the bone fragments remain in place, orthopedic specialists at NYU Langone may recommend noninvasive treatments to help speed healing.
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After a hip or pelvic fracture, your doctor may advise you not to put any weight on the affected hip for six weeks or more. This allows the bone to heal. Your doctor can provide crutches, a walker, a cane, or a wheelchair to help you get around.
It’s important that you remain active despite the injury; remaining immobile for a long period may cause your muscles to weaken. A lack of movement may also cause blood clots, called deep vein thrombosis, to form in the leg and block blood flow.
Your doctor may recommend stretching and range-of-motion exercises in muscles and joints aside from those in the affected hip to maintain strength and improve blood flow, which stimulates healing.
Your doctor may recommend a technique called bone stimulation to help speed bone healing. Bone stimulation uses a low electric current or low-intensity pulsed sound waves. It is administered at a doctor’s office or at NYU Langone’s Bone Healing Center. If a fracture is slow to heal, your doctor may also recommend a portable unit that can be used daily at home.
In electronic bone stimulation, a doctor places a small electrode or electrodes—flat discs that adhere to the skin and conduct electricity—onto the skin near the fractured hip or pelvic bone. The electrodes are connected to a machine that sends a low electrical current to the affected bone. This technique jump-starts the healing process by stimulating your body to produce proteins that begin to repair cells at the site of the injury.
In ultrasonic bone stimulation, a doctor applies a gel to the skin that helps conduct ultrasonic sound waves, which are produced by a small machine. Sound waves encourage the body to incorporate calcium into the bone, helping to rebuild bone mass, as well as stimulating the production of certain chemicals involved in the healing process.
After the injured hip or pelvic bone has begun to heal, a physical therapist at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation can teach you exercises to help preserve the range of motion and strength in the joints and muscles surrounding the injury. Leg lifts and hamstring stretches, for instance, can prevent muscles from weakening or becoming stiff while you avoid putting weight on the fractured hip.
Physical therapy may also help a fracture heal more quickly than immobilization alone. Exercise increases blood flow, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients to injured parts of the bone, aiding in healing.
Doctors often recommend additional physical therapy after the bone has healed and you can walk again to further strengthen muscles in the legs, back, and abdomen. Physical therapy can increase flexibility in muscles that were immobile while the bone was healing. It can also help restore range of motion in the affected hip joint.
Hip and pelvic fractures can be painful. While the fracture heals, your doctor may recommend pain medication to make you more comfortable. For some people, an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen works well.
If over-the-counter medications don’t alleviate pain, your doctor may prescribe a more potent medication for one or two weeks to help you get through the initial healing period and the beginning of physical therapy.
While a fracture is healing, your doctor may recommend avoiding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications work by reducing inflammation at the site of an injury, which relieves pain. However, inflammation is an important part of the body’s healing process, and taking NSAIDs after a hip or pelvic fracture may delay bone healing.
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