Fractures in Older People

What is a Fracture?

A fracture is a type of injury that involves the breaking or cracking of a bone. Fractures are a common injury that can occur in bones due to various reasons. The most common causes of fractures in older people include accidents, falls, osteoporosis, or other conditions that weaken the bones. Common symptoms of a fracture include severe pain, swelling, bruising, deformity, and an inability to use or weight bear on the affected area.

As we age, our bones become weaker, making us more prone to fractures and fractures in older people can take longer to heal fully. A person aged 85 or above is four times more likely to break a bone compared to a person between the ages of 65 and 75. Fractures in older people are a major health concern as they can lead to disability, loss of independence, and even death in some cases.

Types of fractures in older people

Fractures can range from a small crack in the bone to a complete break that causes the bone to come apart. In some cases, the fracture may also cause deformity or even break through the skin.

Here is a list of the most common fractures in older people:

  • Colles fracture (wrist fracture) from falling on an outstretched hand
  • Proximal femur (hip fracture) from falling which are usually managed with a dynamic hip screw (DHS), partial hip replacement or total hip replacement.
  • Ankle fractures
  • Proximal humerus fractures (shoulder fracture)
  • Metacarpal fractures (hand fracture)
  • Osteoporotic wedge fracture of the spine


A fracture is a serious injury and the NHS advise to seek medical help as soon as possible if you think you’ve broken a bone. This may be at your local urgent care centre for minor breaks (toes or fingers) or to your nearest A&E for more severe fractures. Always call 999 for very severe fractures such as a broken neck or back or if you’re not able to get to A&E quickly.

Immediate treatment options may include immobilization with a cast or brace, surgery to realign and stabilize the bone, or physiotherapy to aid in the healing process. It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully to ensure proper healing and avoid complications.

How can Physiotherapy help?

Preventing fractures in older people requires a multi-faceted approach. Here at Physiotherapy Matters, our Physiotherapists use a range of techniques, exercises, and equipment to help older people overcome physical challenges and improve their overall health, wellbeing, and quality of life.

Physiotherapy can be particularly beneficial for older people who have had a fracture as we focus on:

  • Improving mobility.
  • Improving strength and balance.
  • Reducing the risk of falls.
  • Staying active.
  • Increasing confidence after a fracture.

In addition to these interventions, it is important to create safe environments for older people. This can include removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars and handrails, and improving lighting.

Physiotherapy can also help manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and Parkinson’s disease.


The recovery of a fracture can be a long and challenging process, but it is essential to follow the guidelines set by your healthcare provider to ensure a successful outcome. It is also important to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle during the recovery process to promote healing. This may include eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep.

While the recovery process can be challenging, it is important to remain patient and committed to rehabilitation program to ensure a full recovery. With proper care and attention, most fractures can heal completely, allowing you to resume your normal activities and live life to the fullest.

If you or a loved one is an older person experiencing physical challenges, consider speaking with a physiotherapist to see how they can help. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle well into old age.

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