Journey to Recovery From A Broken Leg to Walking Again
My Son’s Painful Journey to Recovery from a Broken Tibia
My oldest son, Elohw, broke his leg (tibia) two days after his sixth birthday. His broken leg was in a full cast from mid-thigh to toe for six weeks. The orthopaedic surgeon and our family doctor advised us not to let him put any weight on his leg while in the cast so his leg would heal better. Even though we got him a pair of crutches, I never forced him to use them while his leg was in the cast because I feared he would over-compensate and develop bad walking habits. At the same time, we needed to follow the specialist’s recommendations to make sure Elohw’s leg healed as well as possible.
We were all as excited as Elohw when it was time for him to get his cast off, but we we didn’t realize that this would be just the beginning of a long journey to recovery!
Recovery From A Broken Tibia
Once the cast was off, the orthopaedic surgeon warned us that his broken leg might grow crooked and that we needed to be careful for a year to prevent complications. He also told us that the fracture was not fully healed and said, “If he were an adult, we would have to put him back in a cast. But because he is a kid, he will heal fast enough.” We were a bit puzzled by this and asked whether we should take Elohw to physiotherapy. He advised us not to waste our money. We left the doctor’s office with our son and his “brand new leg” – and decided to do what seemed right to us based on our experience with our own bodies.
I am so grateful for all my training and my experience with pain because I was able to support my son in his recovery. It has also made me wonder how many parents find themselves at a loss in a similar situation. I broke my femur when I was 19, and I know from experience that we compensate to avoid pain and create more pain in other places in our body, usually in the spine and hips. I kept reminding my son about his posture – repeatedly!
Exercises To Regain Mobility After A Fracture
I knew that the first thing we had to focus on was regaining the mobility in his joint even before gaining strength. I showed him two simple exercises: pointing and flexing his foot and flexing and extending his knee. I soon realized that our son had a very low pain threshold and had gotten used to being carried or scooting around on his butt! I had to deal with lot of resistance and screaming. I tried encouraging him to use the crutches but to no avail. I also discovered that I could stretch his leg while he slept, to help speed the recovery.
At a second visit with our family doctor, she explained that he needed to start standing and, using crutches, put weight on the leg in order for the bones to grow. She told him that astronauts in space lose bone density because, without gravity, they don’t bear any weight.
We also took our son to the physiotherapist to see if she knew a way to speed up the process. Most kids, she told us, are eager to get up and moving, and usually have to be encouraged to slow down to not get hurt. Elohw wasn’t typical. He was anxious about the pain and needed a lot of encouragement. She also explained that his ankle had been compressed by the cast and might be swollen for a few weeks. She showed him a way to use crutches for a more natural gait:, instead of using his crutches the usual way, to hop forward without putting putting any weight on the foot. She also confirmed that what I was doing for him was helpful but told Elohw that he had to work through the pain and move his leg as much as possible. “Pain is normal, but if you still feel pain 20 to 30 minutes after doing a few simple exercises, you’re doing too much.”
I’ve come to realize how tricky it is to deal with a child’s mindset. My son kept saying, “I can’t,” so I kept encouraging him to breathe and kept telling him, “Yes, you can!” When he finally started to walk without crutches, I put him on his bike to help him regain his strength and mobility.
How Parents Can Help Their Children Recovering From Injuries
I hope this post helps other parents who are dealing with an injured child. Feel free to send me any advice or thoughts that could help others in their journey to healing.
We were all excited that he when it was time for him to get his cast off; we didn’t realize that would just be the beginning of the journey to recovery! Once the cast got off the orthopaedic surgeon told us his broken leg might grow crooked and we will have to be careful for a year to prevent complications. He also told us that the fracture was not fully healed and said: “if he was an adult we would have to put him back in a cast but because he his a kid he will heal fast enough.” We were a bit puzzled by his answer and asked him should we bring him to see the
physio. He advised us not to waste money on physio for a kid. We left the doctor office with our son and his “brand new leg” – and decided to do what seemed right to us based on our own journeys in our bodies.
I am so grateful about all my knowledge and experience with pain because I am able to support my son in his recovery journey. It has also made me realize how many parents must be at lost in a similar situation. I broke my femur when I was 19 and I know from experience that we compensate to avoid pain and create more pain at other place in our body; usually the spine and hips. So I keep bringing awareness to my son about his posture and remind him often.
Regaining Mobility After A Broken Leg
I knew that the first thing we had to focus on was for his to gain mobility back in his joint before even being able to gain strength. So I started showing him simple exercises; pointing and flexing his foot and the second one flexing and extending his knee. I soon realize that out son had really low tolerance for pain and had gotten use to be carried around and scooting on his butt! I had to deal with lot of resistance and screaming. I tried encouraging the use of the crutches but that wasn’t working. I also discovered that I could go stretch him while he slept to help speed up the recovery.
We had a second visit at our family doctor and she kindly explained to us that he needs to start standing and using his crutches to put weight on the leg in order for the bones to grow. She told him that astronaut that go out in space lose bone density because they don’t weight bear without gravity.
We also took our son to the physio to see if she had different advice on to speed up the process. She explain that most kid are eager to get
up and going and they have to be slow down to not get hurt. (It was different for Elohw he was anxious about the pain and needed lot of encouragement.) She also explain to me that his ankle got compressed
in the cast and might be swollen for a few weeks. She show us a way to use the crutches that is more like a natural walk; step the opposite foot and crutches in the same time, instead of using it like we usually see people using like hopping without putting weight on the foot. She also confirmed that what I was already currently doing was
helpful and said that Elohw also had to work thought pain and move his leg as much as possible. She said pain if normal but if you feel pain 20-30 minutes after doing some simple exercises that is a sign that it was too much.
I am realizing how tricky it is to deal with mind set. My son right now keep saying “I can’t” – but I keep encouraging him to breath and tell him “Yes, you can!” He finally started to walk without the help of crutches and I put him on his bike as soon as possible to help him gain his strength and mobility back.
I hope this helps any parent in a similar situation, and I would appreciate any advice or thoughts you might have that could help us in our journey to healing.