When Can I Start Exercising After A Fracture?

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When considering your exercise plan after suffering a bone fracture, it is important to take into account the severity of the fracture, your treatment plan, overall health, and your personal healing process. Mild fractures may heal in about 6-8 weeks, and low-impact exercise and physical therapy can be started once pain and swelling have subsided. Moderate to severe fractures may require longer healing times and a more intense recovery process, sometimes involving surgery. Moderate to severe fractures may take 20 weeks or more to heal to the point where a gradual return to exercise can be incorporated into your recovery plan.

Benefits and Caution of Exercising After a Bone Fracture

Benefits of exercising include improving range of motion, reducing stiffness, increasing strength, promoting bone healing, and maintaining overall health. Exercise can also help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of future fractures. However, exercising too soon or too aggressively after a bone fracture can delay healing or cause reinjury, which can lead to chronic pain or disability. In general, a good rule is to be patient with yourself, listen to your body, and avoid any exercise that hurts.


Understanding Mild Bone Fractures

Mild bone fractures are also known as incomplete or non-displaced fractures and are characterised by a partial break in the bone. There are several types of mild bone fractures, including:


Greenstick Fracture

This is a partial break that occurs on one side of the bone, causing a bend on the other side. It is common in children, whose bones are more pliable than those of adults.


Hairline Fracture

A hairline fracture, or stress fracture, is a small crack in the bone that is barely visible on an X-ray. It is often caused by repetitive stress or overuse.


Buckle fracture

This is a compression injury that causes the bone to buckle but not break completely. It is common in children, particularly in the forearm.


Avulsion Fracture

This occurs when a small piece of bone is pulled off due to a ligament or tendon injury. It is often seen in athletes and is common in the ankle, knee, and hip joints.


Treatment and Exercise After Mild Bone Fractures

The treatment for mild fractures typically involves immobilising the affected limb to allow the bone time to heal. This may involve the use of a cast, brace, or splint. Pain medication may also be prescribed to manage any discomfort. As the bone heals, gentle range of motion exercises may be recommended as part of a physical therapy plan to prevent stiffness and improve healing. Once the fracture has fully healed, a gradual return to normal activities and exercise can be initiated. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy may form an important part of the treatment plan for mild fractures. It is recommended to wait until the fracture has had some time to heal and show signs of stability before beginning physical therapy. This typically ranges from 2 to 6 weeks after the fracture, depending on the specific case. 


After a mild fracture that didn't require surgery, it is important to start with gentle exercises that won't put too much stress on the healing bone. Low-impact exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming, and using an elliptical machine can be good options to start with, taking into consideration the location of the fracture. As the bone continues to heal and become stronger, you can gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. 

Understanding Severe Fractures

Severe fractures often require more extensive treatment, such as orthopaedic surgery, and may take longer to heal than mild fractures. Severe fractures are categorised based on the severity of the injury, the complexity of the fracture pattern, and the level of displacement of the bone fragments. Some common types of severe fractures include:

Comminuted Fracture

In this type of fracture, the bone breaks into multiple pieces, making it more complicated to treat.

Open Fracture

Also known as a compound fracture, this occurs when the bone protrudes through the skin, leaving the bone exposed to the outside environment and increasing the risk of infection.

Transverse Fracture

This is a fracture that runs perpendicular to the long axis of the bone.

Oblique Fracture

This is a fracture that runs diagonally across the bone.

Spiral Fracture

This is a fracture that spirals around the bone, often caused by a twisting injury.

Impacted Fracture

In this type of fracture, the bone fragments are driven into each other, shortening the overall length of the bone.


Treatment and Exercising After Severe Fractures

The treatment for severe fractures that require surgery typically involves realigning the broken bone and stabilising it with screws, pins, rods, or plates. After surgery, you may be immobilised with a cast or brace for several weeks to allow the bone to heal. Physical therapy may also be prescribed to help regain strength and mobility in the affected area. Pain management is an important aspect of post-surgical care, and medication or other therapies may be used to help manage discomfort during the healing process. In some cases, additional surgeries or procedures may be necessary to fully restore function to the affected area. Close follow-up with a healthcare provider is important to ensure proper healing and recovery.

Physical Therapy

The timing of when physical therapy begins after fracture repair surgery varies depending on the specific type and severity of the fracture, as well as your overall health and recovery progress. In some cases, physical therapy may begin shortly after surgery, while in other cases it may be delayed for several weeks to allow for proper healing. The surgeon or physical therapist will evaluate your progress and determine when it is safe to begin physical therapy. Following the recommended rehabilitation plan to optimise healing and regain function is important.


The types of exercises that can be done after a severe fracture depends on the specific bone that was fractured, the type of surgery performed, and the recommendations of the treating physician or physical therapist. In general, after a period of rest and immobilisation to allow for proper healing, exercises may begin with gentle range-of-motion and flexibility exercises to gradually increase the joint's mobility. 


Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises can then be added to rebuild muscle strength and endurance, with a focus on the injured area and surrounding muscles. Low-impact activities like cycling or swimming may also be recommended as your healing progresses, as they can provide cardiovascular benefits without placing excessive stress on the healing bone. It is important to follow the guidance of the healthcare team and not rush into any exercises that may jeopardise the healing process.

Exercising After A Bone Fracture

The timeline for returning to exercise after a fracture depends on the severity of the injury and your personal healing process. While exercise can have numerous benefits, it's crucial to avoid any activity that causes pain or could result in re-injury. For mild fractures, physical therapy and low-impact exercises can be started once the bone has had time to heal. For severe fractures that require surgery, a longer recovery period and a more intensive rehabilitation program may be necessary. It's essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a safe and effective exercise plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.

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