Your doctor fixed a broken (fractured) bone without surgery. You can expect the pain from the bone to get much better almost right after the procedure. But you may have some pain for 2 to 3 weeks and mild pain for up to 6 weeks after surgery.
How soon you can return to work and your normal routine depends on your job and how long it takes the bone to heal. If you have a desk job, you may be able to go back to work right away. But if you have a fractured leg and your job requires you to walk or stand a lot, you will need to wait until your fracture has healed.
You heal best when you take good care of yourself. Eat a variety of healthy foods, and don't smoke.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- Increase your activity as recommended by your doctor. Being active boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation. It is usually okay to exercise other parts of your body as soon as you feel well enough.
- Avoid putting weight on your broken bone until your doctor says it is okay.
- You may be able to go back to work right away, or you may need to take several weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel. Your doctor will help you decide how much time to take off from work.
- You can take showers or baths, but do not get your cast wet. Tape a sheet of plastic to cover your cast so that it stays dry. It may help to sit on a shower stool.
- You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, take an over-the-counter medicine that your doctor recommends. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
- Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Do exercises as instructed by your doctor or physical therapist. These exercises will help keep your muscles strong and your joints flexible while your bone is healing.
- Wiggle your fingers or toes on the injured arm or leg often. This helps reduce swelling and stiffness.
Ice and elevation
- Prop up the injured arm or leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the first 1 to 2 weeks after your injury. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling and pain.
- Keep your cast dry.
- Wear a sling to support the fractured limb, if your doctor tells you to.
- Do not stick objects such as pencils or coat hangers in your cast to scratch your skin.
- Do not put powder into your cast to relieve itchy skin.
- Never cut or alter your cast.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have new or worse pain.
- Your fingers or toes are cool or pale or change color.
- You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your fingers or toes.
- Your cast or splint feels too tight.
- You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Swelling in the leg or groin.
- A color change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin color.
Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You have a problem with your splint or cast.
- You do not get better as expected.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine