For some people, recovering from broken bones can be a long and painful process. Sometimes the pain continues even after the fracture heals. Ongoing chronic pain can make it hard to sleep, it can make you irritable or depressed. This, in turn, can make the pain feel worse. If you have ongoing pain, talk to your healthcare provider about what you can do to control your pain.
- Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) medication for pain. OTC medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, may help you to manage your pain. These medications can have side effects, especially if you take them at high doses or for a long period of time. Work with your healthcare provider and pharmacist to choose the right pain medication for you based on your individual medical history and needs.
- Applying heat or cold. A cold compress or a bag of frozen peas can be applied to the injured area. Warm towels and heating pads can also provide some relief. Do not use either of these for more than 15 - 20 minutes at a time.
- Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS). This is a method to reduce pain with electrical impulses. A TENS unit sends a mild current traveling through electrodes into your body. You may feel tingling or warmth. A treatment lasts from 5 - 15 minutes. You can ask your physical therapist or healthcare provider about getting a prescription for TENS.
- Acupuncture. This involves inserting special needles at specific places in the skin. According to ancient Chinese belief, this alters the body’s flow of energy into healthier patterns. Acupuncture is gaining acceptance in this country as a way to reduce pain. Your healthcare provider or health insurance company may be able to tell you about acupuncturists in your area. Some health insurance companies offer coverage or discounts for acupuncture.
- Biofeedback. This type of therapy uses electronic instruments to measure body functions and then feed that information back to you. A biofeedback specialist uses this information to teach you to control involuntary body responses, such as blood pressure or heart rate. It can also be helpful for managing pain. Your healthcare provider may be able to help you find a biofeedback specialist.
- Behavior modification. This is a technique to change habits, behaviors and feelings that can result from ongoing pain. It may include rewards for increasing your physical activity, improving your diet or making other changes in your life.
- Massage. Broken bones can cause pain and tension in the muscles surrounding the fracture. Gentle massage of these muscles may help to decrease the pain in these muscles. Before you get a massage it’s important to get permission from your healthcare provider. Work with a qualified massage therapist who understands your medical history.
- Physical activity. Being active is a natural way to reduce pain. When you exercise, your body releases substances called endorphins that can relieve pain and boost your mood. Exercise also has many other health benefits. If you have osteoporosis, you should speak with your healthcare professional before you start a new exercise program. Ask about whether you would benefit from working with a physical therapist.
- Relaxation techniques. There are several different relaxation techniques that can help people release muscle tension and shift their attention away from pain. Some examples include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery. People can learn and practice these and other relaxation techniques from CDs, videos, books and classes, as well as trained professionals.