Do you know that a fractured pelvis can leave you with excruciating pain and zero mobility for a few days? Read this article to know about the fractured pelvis, the consequences of different surgeries, and how to sleep with a fractured pelvis during the healing process.
When the bones that link your spine to the lower body get injured in any accident or external force then it can result in a pelvic fracture. Depending on the intensity of the accident and its outcome, every fracture differs from the other. Some are minor while others are severe and every fracture is treated according to its intensity.
Depending on the intensity, every injury requires an adequate amount of time to recover. In some cases, it takes many months to recover completely. In this recovery process, it can get difficult for a person to perform daily routine tasks and even sleep because of extreme pain in the fractured area.
In this article, we have covered all the aspects of a pelvic fracture including types of pelvic fractures, different fracture treatment methods, the recovery process, and how to sleep with a fractured pelvis.
Table of Contents
Life after pelvic fracture
The pelvis is located in the lower part of your body between the legs and abdomen and is a ring-shaped bone. The bones that make up the pelvic area include the sacrum, coccyx, and hip bone. Human reproductive organs and legs are situated in this part of the body and the function of this area is to provide support to your intestine, protect important nerves and provide an anchor for your leg muscles. When one or more than one bone gets fractured or damaged due to any accident then the condition is called a pelvic fracture.
Fracture in the pelvis not only brings difficulty and pain to the body but also affects the everyday activities of the individual. The intensity of the effects depends on the severity of the fracture. As the majority of pelvic fractures leave stable injuries but in a critical case they can cause death. Some other conditions that a pelvic fracture can lead to are neurological injury, hemorrhage, chronic pain, persistent neurological deficits, infection, and associated trauma.
It can occur due to an injury to the muscle so it can happen to people of any age. However, older people are more at risk of this fracture because as humans grow older their bones turn weak. These fractures are mild as they occur mostly because of falls or trips or an injury in a sport.
Apart from older people, others can also experience it due to a severe accident. These accidents include a car crash, fall from a height, or other tragic accidents, and these required immediate medical treatment.
Types of pelvic fractures
When an injury occurs in the pelvic area there is a possibility of damage to the opposite part of the same area too. Depending on the severity and consequences, pelvic fractures are divided into two major categories:
Stable and unstable fractures:
Majority of the pelvic fractures are stable where a single bone is affected so the injury does not entirely break the structures of the bones and the shape of the ring is secured. This can occur when a muscle is pulled from minor falls or running called pelvic avulsion fractures.
When the damage is caused to more than one bone of the pelvic area and the fracture disturbs the ring of the bones because the ends move away from each other is called an unstable fracture. This can occur as a result of high-impact injury from a serious accident and involves severe bleeding along with other injuries. The disruption to the ring of bones can cause further damage to the internal organs.
Open and closed fractures:
If the injury leads your bone to the skin where the bones are visible through the skin is called an open fracture. These are more severe as they damage the skin and increase the risk of infection through the skin. If the injury is internal and does not damage the skin then it is called a closed fracture.
You are expected to reach out to the doctor if there is a risk of stable or unstable pelvic fracture. The doctor evaluates your injury to check the severity of the injury and takes further steps according to it. In the case of a serious accident, an X-ray is needed right away but if there is a mild injury where you find it difficult to walk or stabilize your lower part of the body then there is a risk of fracture. Professional doctors through x-rays detect the fractured pelvis.
Other ways to detect the intensity of fracture include MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound scans. In a Ct scan, you can get a three-dimensional clearer image of the injuries, an MRI scan works like a CT scan to show a clearer image of the injury, and ultrasound scans can give you a clearer picture of the internal organs to assess the damage caused to them. Moreover, you can be asked for other tests to analyze the damage caused to other parts of the body such as a urine test to check the bladder and a blood test to check the functionality of the liver and vessels.
The fastest way to heal a broken pelvis
Not every fracture requires surgery as doctors examine the case and then decide if surgery is needed or not. It depends on the severity, type of fracture, and overall health. Some fractures can heal on their own with time and are not considered very dangerous while in some cases a patient is not capable of undergoing surgery because of his health condition. In either of these cases, you are required to visit your doctor and let him suggest the treatment.
While on the contrary, some severe injuries require an immediate operation. If there are other severe injuries also involved in a case then the treatment of a pelvic fracture depends on the healing of the injuries in the related areas around the pelvis.
If a pelvic fracture is mild and stable then you do not need to undergo surgery and the fracture can heal through follow-up care, rest, and medical aid. You will be instructed by the doctor to rest completely for a few weeks and not put unnecessary stress on the fractured area. To avoid the stress in those areas he can also ask you to rely on walking aids such as walkers or wheelchairs for necessary movements and walking.
The medications prescribed by the doctor will help you to reduce the risk of forming blood clots in your veins and pelvis and to relieve pain in the fractured bone. Further, necessary changes in your diet will be suggested by the doctor depending on your health condition. For example, you can be asked to cut down on alcohol and sugar if you are diabetic to speed up the healing process. This type of treatment takes almost 3 months to heal the fractured pelvis completely.
A severe and unstable pelvic fracture requires immediate surgery but if the patient’s health condition is not suitable to undergo an operation then the doctors can delay the surgery for a few days. There are different types of surgical approaches to pelvic fractures. Doctors will choose the most suitable one depending on the injury pattern.
External fixation is a type of surgery in which the pelvic area is fixed by inserting screws or metal pins into your fractured bone area through skin and muscles. The inserted pins or screws are attached to rods made of carbon fibers outside the skin which stabilizes the broken bones. This frame stabilizes the alignment and movement of the bones till they heal.
Another type of surgery includes skeletal traction. In this traction, the surgeon inserts a pin in the bone that is broken so that it can stick out of your skin and helps to position your leg. A maximum of 15 pounds of weight is attached to a pulley which provides a force so that the bone can be adjusted and aligned to its place. If you have to undergo surgery it will prepare your bone for it or can be used as a proper way to heal.
One of the most common surgeries practiced by surgeons includes the use of metal plates and screws. Broken bones are aligned back to their normal position by screws and plates that are attached to the outer surface of the bone.
How long does it take for a fracture in your pelvis to heal?
The duration of healing depends if the fracture is stable or unstable. In most cases, it takes a minimum of 8 weeks to heal completely but if the fracture is severe then it can take longer than 8 weeks. Complete bed rest is required for a week after which the patient can then move and sit. Athletes are especially asked to avoid all sports activities until the pain goes away and the bones heal. Gradually movements are improved so one can even start waking with a walking aid after two weeks.
In some cases the patient notices their pain decreasing after a few days of fracture while others go through severe pain so they are given medications to reduce pain. Physical therapists help you in this healing process and prescribe you safe foot and leg exercises so that your mobility does not restrict.
How to live comfortably with a fractured pelvis?
There is surgery and clear instructions for bed rest so the mobilization and activity are stopped for a few days and then gradually added back to the life of the person having a fractured pelvis. In this healing process of a few weeks, the flexibility and balancing abilities get affected so it can disturb your everyday activities. Through propeller instructions of physicians and surgeons, one should focus on a few things so that one can recover in a healthy way.
After your surgery, you will be directed to a physical therapist who will analyze your condition and come up with a specific treatment plan for you keeping in mind all the complications of your health. These plans will focus on reducing the pain level of your pelvis, increasing the strength level of your body, maintaining flexibility, and speeding up the healing process so that you can bounce back to your life activities like a normal person.
These plans including exercises and treatments can be carried out at home as it is a long healing process so you do not have to go to the doctor every day and help yourself recover at home.
Pelvic fracture rehabilitation
The plan that your physical therapist designs for you considering your condition and lifestyle is called an individualized rehabilitation program. The main priorities in this plan include:
Reducing pain: The pain in the body after a pelvic fracture differs from person to person depending on the case. Different types of technologies and medical treatments are used by your physiotherapist to reduce pain such as electrical stimulation, taping, manual therapy techniques, and exercises.
Improving strength: This factor depends on the age and health of a person as older people are not expected to regain maximum strength while young people are capable of regaining their original strength. Several exercises are recommended to help you gain agility and strength. These exercises involve the use of weight-lifting equipment, resistance bands, and stationary bicycles. These exercises are complex so they are practiced after a few weeks of surgery.
Restoring your body movement: Your leg, spine, and hip are mostly affected by the fracture so they lose mobility while you are on bed rest. Your physiotherapist will recommend activities to restore movement in these areas of your body. The activities in the initial days will be passive motions applied to your leg and hip so that the stress is slowly shifted to these areas which will gradually shift to active motions that will increase the stress and functionality of these areas.
Maintain the balance: As you go through a complete rest, there is a risk of your body losing balance as the hip area plays an important role in maintaining your balance. This hip area is closer to the pelvis and so along with the pelvis, the muscles of the hip area need mobility. The physiotherapist will ensure that the exercises help you regain your balance.
Speed up the recovery time: If you follow the guidelines of your therapist you will recover back in a healthy way which you will not be able to do on your own. He will communicate with you to keep in mind your future plans and work priorities so that the treatment plan can make you effectively reach your goals. Athletes are treated differently and their exercises are sport-specific exercises focusing on their future sports activities. All the suggested exercises and diet plans by your physiotherapist will help you heal faster and get back to your normal life.
Gradually start walking: After your bed rest, the physiotherapist will ask you to start walking so that your lower body muscles start getting balanced. This walk can start from your home where the physiotherapist examines your home and will instruct your family to make sure there is no risk of falls.
How to sleep with a fractured pelvis?
Sleeping with a fractured pelvic can even affect your sleep or rest because along with the pelvis your leg hip and coccyx can experience intense pain. Pelvic pain is felt more at night because of two reasons. Firstly, it arises due to attention, when we go to sleep our mind is not diverted to any other thing so the body can feel the pain with more intensity. Secondly, the tissues that work to heal the injured area may cause pain.
However, there are some ways that can reduce the excruciating pain so you can sleep comfortably with a fractured pelvis.
Posture of your body:
The best posture for you to sleep in this condition is on your back as it does not put pressure on the broken bone and other organs of the lower body. The injured area requires blood flow to heal faster so it regulates the blood to that injured area. Moreover, Physicians advise this position because it speeds up the recovery process as by elevating your legs the blood circulation in your body increases.
Usually, people tend to switch their positions when they sleep multiple times in the night so with a fractured pelvis, it can become an issue. In this case, you have to learn to shift the body weight safely so that the injured part does not get triggered. Hold your body with your arms and gradually move in the intended direction so that the pressure does not get exerted on the pelvis area.
You should not consume any painkillers without consulting your doctor and should only rely on the doctor’s instructions. The doctor will prescribe some medications that can work as pain relief and sleep aids. The pain relief medications will help you relax your body so you can rest and sleep without any difficulty. If you are still not able to sleep then the doctor will prescribe sleep aids that contain melatonin (a natural hormone of the body making us sleep). One can also try some other sleep aids including herbal tea, magnesium, etc after consulting the doctor.
You can not sleep with a person so make sure you sleep by yourself and nobody is near you as sleeping next to someone involves the risk of them bumping on your fractured pelvis which will make it painful. Sleeping alone will be comfortable for you because you will have plenty of space where you can keep extra pillows for more support and comfort.
The ambiance of the room should also be comforting and relaxing to help you sleep faster and better. It includes light and unnecessary noise. Make sure that there are dim lights on if you do not prefer complete darkness and along with that use essential oils to further soothe the atmosphere. Moreover, stop using any electronic devices such as phones or any other screens to minimize the disruption and generate sleeping hormones faster.
Reduce fluid intake before bedtime
If you constantly wake up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night then it can get painful for the injured pelvis. Therefore, you should make sure that any kind of liquid is not consumed within 2 hours of sleep. It includes all kinds of fluids including water, alcohol, and caffeine. Caffeine along with bathroom use can impair your ability to fall asleep as it remains in the circulation system and make it difficult for you to fall asleep peacefully.
Set a routine:
It is important for you to take maximum rest but constant naps can also disrupt your sleep cycle and make it difficult for you to sleep at night. In this case, you need to set a fixed routine to sleep so that the body gets used to that routine which makes it easier for you to fall asleep at night. Additionally, have a look at your diet and stay away from all the harmful addictions and stimulants that can interfere with your natural body functionality and disturb the sleeping cycle.
Pelvic fracture can affect the normal functionality of the human body. There are different surgical and nonsurgical treatments available for the fractured pelvis but the recovery process can take a few months. Along with other daily activities, sleep also gets affected by a fractured pelvis but sleep and rest are the required components to healing any injury.
Hence, one should try to enhance the quality of his sleep through different techniques or medications. All the steps should be taken according to the guidance of the doctor so that the recovery process is faster and more fruitful for the body.