Pelvic fractures can occur when there is a large force to the pelvis, resulting in a break in one or more bones. Symptoms of a pelvic fracture include tenderness or sharp pain anywhere around your pelvis, pain when you sit, stand or walk. You may also experience pain, numbness or tingling into the groin, or thighs, difficulty weight-bearing through one or both legs and pain that keeps you awake at night.
What causes a pelvic fracture?
It usually takes very large forces to cause a fracture of the pelvis. Common causes include falls, especially in the elderly, motor vehicle accidents or bike accidents. Stress fractures of the triangular lower back bone (sacrum) have been seen in underweight elite female distance runners, often due to low bone density and high repetitive loads. This can also occur across all age groups, in individuals who perform high-intensity exercise or in adolescents who may be undergoing growth spurts. In rare cases, bone cancers can occur that may be related to spreading of disease (metastatis), so any unusual pain or changes in function should be investigated.
How do I know if I have a pelvic fracture?
If you have any of the following symptoms, consult your GP or physiotherapist and request an X-ray to confirm a pelvic fracture:
If the X-ray does not show a fracture but your symptoms persist, you may need a CT scan to investigate smaller fractures that may not have been identified on an ordinary X-ray. It is important to discuss these issues with your GP.
How can physiotherapy help with a pelvic fracture?
Usually, a pelvic fracture requires 6–8 weeks of non-weight bearing or on crutches to give the pelvic bones time to heal.
Once this time has passed, your physiotherapist can design a comprehensive exercise program to regain lost muscle strength in the lower back pelvis and hip region. Research shows that six weeks of non-weight bearing results in widespread decreased activity of many muscles of the trunk. Therefore, rehabilitation of pelvic muscles with your physiotherapist is a vital part of getting back to full function for work, life and sport after a pelvic fracture.
After a long period of modified or non-weight bearing, the skeletal system can also be affected, and joints in the hip, lumbar spine and lower limbs can become stiff and have decreased bone density. Initially, exercises in water to help regain movement and to re-establish walking will greatly assist recovery.
How effective is physiotherapy for a pelvic fracture?
Physiotherapy cannot assist in the fracture healing process. However, when it is time for you to start weight-bearing and returning to previous activities, physiotherapy is a great way to do so safely. Physiotherapists can guide you through appropriate exercises that will strengthen your pelvic muscles and allow you to return to activities safely.
When you rest your body and don’t do normal activities, and when you have been in a lot of pain from a fracture, you can develop muscle tightness and spasm. Physiotherapists can provide various treatments to help decrease your muscle tightness and pain. Techniques that physiotherapists may use include massage, dry needling and joint mobilisations. These techniques help to relieve your pain, get your joints moving better and allow strength exercises to be performed more easily.
Depending on the location of your fracture within your pelvis, you may or not be able to put weight on your legs. Consult your physiotherapist regarding appropriate weight-bearing, use of crutches, and if there are any exercises that may help maintain muscle activity during the fracture healing stage.
How long until I feel better?
Again, the location of your fracture will determine the healing time. Generally, the fracture will have good healing within 8–12 weeks, however, your pain should start to subside slowly after 2–4 weeks. It is important to strictly follow the weight-bearing guidelines given to you by your doctor to allow best healing to occur.