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Surgery Options continued...

If you have a fractured vertebra that is persistently painful, your doctor may offer two kinds of procedures, Deal says:

  • Kyphoplasty. The doctor inserts a tiny balloon to expand the broken vertebrae, fills the space created by the balloon with bone cement, and then removes the balloon. 
  • Vertebroplasty. This procedure is similar to kyphoplasty, but without the balloon.

Like all surgeries, there are risks. There has been some concern about the bone cement leaking, as well as pain and other complications to nerves from this procedure.

Deal says he uses these approaches "judiciously." When used in appropriate cases, he says, "it does result in remarkable improvement of pain."

Physical Therapy

Once your pain is under control, physical therapy can help you get back to your normal activities and avoid another broken bone.

Your plan depends on which bone is affected. You may need to rehab the injury and strengthen certain muscles.

For example, if you break a wrist, you may need to build your upper body strength and strengthening your wrist muscles, says Sherri Betz, PT, a physical therapist in Santa Cruz, Calif. She chairs the American Physical Therapy Association’s Bone Health Special Interest Group.

For the spine, Betz evaluates how well someone can get into and out of bed, lift an object  less than 10 pounds, reach overhead, sit in a chair, and rise to standing.

If those activities are tricky, Betz works with the person on positioning ''so they can sleep, sit, rest." Using pillows and propping, she helps people find ways to get comfortable. She teaches them breathing and stretching techniques to help control pain.

This exercise helps to avoid a hunched-over posture:

  • Sit in a chair with a soft ball behind your back.
  • Lift up your chest.
  • Put your hands behind your head
  • Continue to lift the chest to avoid rounding of the back.

After hip surgery, Betz says it's important to get the legs strong again so that they can get back to their normal activities.

If balance is an issue, she recommends tai chi to help prevent falls. This ancient Chinese martial art is known to improve balance.

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