Yes, You Can Work Out When You Have a Fracture

We fix countless broken bones here at Coastal Ortho. Folks of all ages and all activity levels experience fractures, from nearly invisible stress fractures to severe compound fractures, and our specialists treat each type and each patient with individualized care and expertise.

Although dealing with a broken bone can be frustrating and painful, one of the first questions most patients ask is: “Can I still work out?” Whether you’re an athlete or a fitness buff, taking time off to nurse your injury could set you back. 

We understand, and we’re here to keep your fitness and performance at their peak as you heal. Naturally, what you can and can’t do with a fracture depends on a range of factors, so we’ve put together this handy set of guidelines to give you a glimpse at what’s possible. Our team can give you a specific list of acceptable exercises when assessing your injury.

Which is best for a fracture: Rest or exercise?

The answer is both.

Why rest?

Rest is an essential part of your healing process. Your damaged tissues need time to repair themselves, and they do that best when you don’t jostle them around. That’s why we use casts, splints, and braces to keep your broken bone immobile during the initial healing phase. 

If you had surgery to repair a fracture, you might have screws, pins, or a plate holding your bone together; plus, you have an incision that needs to heal. Over time, those artificial devices will fuse with your bones, but until then, you’ll want to give your injured bone a chance to recuperate.

The case for exercise

Contrary to popular belief, exercise is vital to your recovery from broken bones. In fact, physical activity actually promotes bone healing and helps prevent future fractures. Unfortunately, up to 10% of fractures don’t heal correctly. The proper treatment makes a big difference, and that’s where we come in.

But exercise matters, too, and that’s where you come in.

Studies show that weight-bearing exercises — the kind you do while standing on one or both feet, requiring you to bear your body’s full weight — can actually accelerate bone healing. People with osteoporosis, or the loss of bone density, can improve their overall bone mass by performing weight-bearing exercises, and the same is true for you when you have a fracture.

Here’s how it works. 

When you exercise, you increase the flow of blood and oxygen, two essential elements in the tissue-healing process. Your blood vessels enlarge, allowing improved circulation and increased blood and nutrient volume, so your fracture gets fed well. 

Exercise also turns on your ATP (adenosine triphosphate) faucet, which triggers new bone formation.

Finally, exercise causes your muscles to contract, which activates your production of osteocytes, bone cells that build new tissue and patch the edges of your fracture. 

How to work out with a broken bone

How to exercise while waiting for a bone to heal depends on the fracture’s location and severity as well as your physical abilities. We don’t recommend embarking on a workout routine without consulting us first. Even though we encourage exercise as you heal, there’s a right and wrong way to go about it. Here are a few examples.

Broken-leg workouts

If you find yourself in a plaster cast due to a broken leg, you can make simple movements to maintain muscle tone and promote circulation. Try laying on the floor and slowly lifting your leg, holding for five seconds before lowering. Repeat this about 10 times. 

While sitting, press your foot against the floor and release for five seconds, repeating 10 times. Don't forget to wiggle and curl your toes to help with blood flow. These exercises, while simple, can make a big difference in your recovery process.

Broken-wrist workouts

If you're nursing a broken wrist, here are some exercises you can do to speed up the healing process. 

Try bending your elbow and holding a strength ball to start. Squeeze and release the ball 10 times, then rest. 

You can gradually increase the weight-bearing exercises as your bone mends. With patience and commitment, you can help your wrist heal and regain your usual range of motion.

Take advantage of physical therapy

Our experienced physical therapists develop a workout schedule considering your injury and future activity goals. The treatment plan for an elite athlete looks very different from the plan we recommend for sedentary senior citizens. 

We know how to engage all your muscle groups and keep you in shape despite your fracture, so take advantage of our vast experience and medical knowledge. 

Don’t let a fracture sideline you — contact us at any of our Southern California locations in Torrance and El Segundo or schedule an appointment online.