Joint Injuries and Fractures

Physiotherapists play a major role in helping you regain your independence

Joint injuries can often be the result of a fall when you hit the ground too heavily or twist the joint as you land. Immediate damage may show as swelling, followed by severe bruising around the joint.

How we can help:

Joint injuries are most common in the shoulder, knee and ankle often involving fit young people. Sometimes the effects of a joint injury can reappear years later when osteoarthritis develops.

The cause of fractures (broken bones) is similar. In young people it is sometimes the long bones between the joints that take the impact and are broken.

A fracture in the leg frequently makes it impossible to walk immediately following the injury. In older people, fractures are often at the wrist or hip, and may need a long period of recovery.

If you suspect you have broken a bone, or that the supporting structures around a joint have been damaged, you often need to go to the Accident and Emergency service at your local hospital, where you may get a plaster cast, to keep the bone still while it heals. Sometimes an orthopaedic surgeon has to do a repair.

Physiotherapists play a major role in helping you regain your independence once the initial healing has occurred. This often involves an exercise programme specifically made for you, and can include the use of gym equipment to help you regain your strength and any movement lost in the joint. You may also need advice on how to use crutches or other walking aids.

Muscle strains are common. They can occur when you stretch or reach out past your normal range while running, playing sport, gardening etc. A muscle tear is more serious as some of the muscle fibres will be broken.


Initial treatment for both injuries involves RICED.

  • Rest – stop the activity you are doing to avoid further damage.
  • Ice – place crushed ice wrapped in a damp towel on the injured area for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 48 hours.
  • Compression – firm bandaging helps reduce swelling and bleeding.
  • Elevation – keep the affected area raised as much as possible.
  • Diagnosis – it is very important to see your doctor or physiotherapist if the pain and swelling gets worse or you have not improved after a couple of days.


The best way to prevent muscle strains and tears is to include a warm-up programme before starting any exercise, and then cool down and stretch when you have finished the activity.

Advice on warm-up programmes and cool-down activities can be obtained from your physiotherapist.


Following an injury, your physiotherapist can help your rehabilitation. The earlier you get help, the faster your injury is likely to heal.

Treatment will include an exercise programme, possibly with the use of some gym equipment to increase your strength and co-ordination and restore any movement lost in the joint.



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