What Is Humerus Fracture Rehabilitation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Humerus fracture rehabilitation is a course of therapy to help a patient recover from a fracture of the upper arm bone, and to prevent problems with the shoulder and upper arm in the future. A physical therapist typically designs and supervises the therapy in consultation with the patient's orthopedic physician to make sure the therapy is appropriate for the patient's condition. Time spent in therapy can vary, and patients may need appointments for weeks or months while they recover.

The elbow joint, showing the location of the humerus.
The elbow joint, showing the location of the humerus.

Fractures of the upper arm are relatively uncommon and tend to be most frequent among older adults with osteoporosis, often as a result of falls where the patient braces with the arm. Sometimes humerus fractures occur in young children, and are occasionally indicators of child abuse. One consideration in humerus fracture rehabilitation is the age of the patient and other preexisting medical conditions. Children can bounce back quickly from fractures, for instance, while more elderly people cannot because their bones are more fragile.

In some cases, a child with a humerus fracture may have been subjected to child abuse.
In some cases, a child with a humerus fracture may have been subjected to child abuse.

Therapy should begin as soon as possible after the fracture, as prolonged immobility can set the patient up for future complications with the humerus and shoulder joint. Early humerus fracture rehabilitation can include gentle stretches and exercise to mobilize the bone and develop strength and flexibility. With medical approval, the patient can start to lift weights to improve muscle strength, and may gradually take on more weight with time to develop better musculature.

Athletes may undergo fracture rehabilitation to help them get back to playing.
Athletes may undergo fracture rehabilitation to help them get back to playing.

Some patients experience complications like nerve palsies that can also be addressed with humerus fracture rehabilitation. The patient should have better control over the whole limb after therapy, in addition to being stronger and more robust. Strength is important, as it can prevent injuries to the same location in the future. If the injury was the result of a fall, the patient might also receive a medical evaluation to determine if tools like canes or walkers might be necessary for stability, to limit the chances of a future fall.

It is harder for elderly people to recover from fractures because their bones are more fragile.
It is harder for elderly people to recover from fractures because their bones are more fragile.

In humerus fracture rehabilitation, patients can work with the therapist in a treatment center as well as complete exercises at home. It is important to communicate about pain levels and any complications, as these could be indicators of a problem. Patients who notice extreme pain, heat, swelling, or other issues around the fracture site should bring these problems to the attention of the therapist. The therapist can determine if they are normal, or if the patient needs medical treatment to address a complication like an infection or torn muscle.

A physical therapist may work with a patient during humerus fracture rehabilitation.
A physical therapist may work with a patient during humerus fracture rehabilitation.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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