A common challenge for those with a fractured bone is sleeping comfortably. Not only are you sore from the fracture, but your cast may also feel big, heavy and uncomfortable. At the same time, sleep is very important for healing. There are some steps you can take to fall asleep with a broken bone.
Tips for better sleep in a cast include:
- Take pain medication as instructed by your physician.
- Your cast may make you feel hot, so dress comfortably in cool, light, loose-fitting clothing.
- If you sleep with a partner or pet, arrange for them to sleep elsewhere until you are used to the cast.
- Practice sleep hygiene: Adjust the temperature, light and noises in your bedroom. Limit electronics before bedtime. Go to bed and wake up close to the same time each day.
The importance of elevating your fracture is hard to overstate. Elevating a broken bone prevents blood from pooling around the break, which can cause swelling.
Orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Blake Schultz explains that this swelling is a major cause of continued pain once your broken bone is treated with a cast or splint.
“Pain may be worse at night as a result of swelling that occurred during the day or just from whatever activity you did,” Dr. Schultz said.
Elevating your injury and decreasing swelling can significantly control pain. If you need surgery, having less swelling makes the surgery easier and decreases the risk of wound complications.
Orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Blake Turvey emphasizes that true elevation is when the injured bone or joint is above the level of the heart.
“Gentle wiggling of the finger and toes can also help with circulation, which in turn may help decrease some swelling,” he said.
It is not necessary to elevate an injured bone all night if it is preventing you from sleeping.
“Making sure to elevate the injured arm/leg for a few minutes before you go to sleep could help,” Dr. Schultz said.
Pillows, blankets and cushions can be used to elevate a fractured bone while helping you to get as comfortable as possible and prevent further injury from tossing and turning. How you should position yourself and the pillows depends on the location of your fracture.
If your arm or leg is fractured, prop your cast up on a pillow, blanket or cushion from your sofa or a chair. You can then add pillows or blankets until your fractured limb is above the level of your heart.
It is a little trickier to support a fractured hip or a collar bone while sleeping. If your collar bone is fractured, it’s best to sleep upright while supporting your shoulder. Sleep in a recliner or propped upright in bed. Then use pillows on both sides of your body to keep you still through the night, and a firm pillow to cushion and support your shoulder.
Back sleeping while keeping your leg straight is the safest position for sleeping with a fractured hip. To prevent your leg from turning to the left or right, put a pillow outside of the knee on the same side as your hip injury. Then place another pillow between your knees and upper legs.
Aside from Sleep
Dr. Schultz encourages patients to move the joints above and below their splint or cast. In addition to increasing circulation, which reduces swelling, this can prevent stiffness.
It is also important to keep your cast or splint dry. Patients can use trash bags and tape around the cast or splint for bathing.
“If the cast gets wet, it loses its strength, and may not hold your fracture and repair in place as well. If that happens, you should make an appointment to have it changed as soon as possible,” he said.
Texas Orthopedics’ team of orthopedic trauma surgeons specializes in fractures. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, book online or call (512) 439-1000.