6 tips to prevent fragile fractures in the elderly

Those suffering from osteoporosis are prone to fragile fractures. An orthopaedist shares 6 tips that can help minimise the risk of such fractures

elderly woman smiling through the window with cup in hand
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Fragile fractures can occur in any bone after a fall. Elderly people are more likely to fall prey to such conditions during winters as they tend to wake up multiple times in the night to urinate. Due to their weak muscles and bones, they are more likely to suffer from fragile fractures just from a mere fall.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), more than 200 million people are estimated to be suffering from osteoporosis. 1 in 3 women and and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 years will experience fragile fractures in their lifetime, resulting in hospitalisation. Osteoporosis is the major risk factor for fragile fractures but there are other reasons too such as muscle weakness or muscle spasms.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis or “Porous Bones” is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone mineral, resulting in weak and fragile bones which are more likely to suffer fractures with even a mild fall. Porous bones are more likely to occur at hips, spine, or wrist. The risk of osteoporosis increases with age and can lead to fragile fractures, causing permanent disability. The reasons for osteoporosis are varied—hormonal disorders, blood or bone marrow disorders, autoimmune disorders etc.

Muscle Spasm

The involuntary movement of one or more muscles at a time leads to a muscle spasm also called ‘twitch’. The main reason for muscle spasms can be fatigue, overuse, stress, or anxiety. It is most likely to happen in elderly people who are suffering from nerve disorders. Some symptoms can be pain in the neck, back, and head, muscle weakness, skin numbness etc.

To avoid fragile fractures, elders should take all possible care to prevent the above-mentioned conditions. If they already suffer from these conditions, they would do well to alter their lifestyle such that they minimise the risk of worsening their condition. Seniors should avoid sitting on the floor, as much as possible, as doing so can cause unnecessary strain on their bones and muscles. Regular exercises like walking, yoga and cycling have great benefits. Lastly, the importance of having a balanced diet and regular health checkups cannot be stressed enough.

6 tips to minimise fragile fractures in the elderly

Here are few tip that can help prevent falls that can lead to fragile fractures:

1. Install handles/railings at strategic places in the house

Hand railings enable seniors to walk safely to the washroom, or up and down the stairs; Using a walking stick to move around the house can also help keep the balance and prevent falls.

2. Comfortable, slip-free footwear

Elderly people should avoid wearing normal slippers that can cause them to trip; instead, they should wear comfortable, slip-free footwear with cushioned soles.

3. Keep the floor free of clutter

Items lying around the floor can inadvertently cause tripping. It helps to keep the floors of the house as clutter-free as possible. Likewise, ensure that carpets and rugs are properly tucked to the floor and clean off spilled liquids, grease or food the floor right away.

4. Bathroom accessibility

During winters, the elderly get frequent urges to use the washroom. It would help if their beds are near the bathroom but if that is not possible, usage of urine pots should be encouraged during nighttime. Install slip-proof tiles on the bathroom floor.

5. Limit water-intake

Seniors should avoid tea/coffee or milk after sunset. Also, they shouldn’t drink more water than necessary to quench their thirst as that can increase their need to use the washroom at night.

6. Keep a night lamp switched on at night

A night lamp will ensure that the room is not pitch dark when they need to visit the washroom at nighttime. A night lamp will help them navigate their way without danger of getting hurt due to poor visibility. Also, in general, keep the home well lit to avoid any untoward mishap.

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Manish Sontakke
Dr Manish Sontakke is Consultant – Orthopedic Surgery at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi — A Fortis Network Hospital. He is a Spine Surgeon, Orthopaedist and Joint Replacement Surgeon with an experience of 15 years in his specialisations.

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