Maintaining heart health during orthopedic injury recovery is part of our objective for treatment when you come to Propel Physiotherapy. After suffering any type of orthopedic injury, traumatic or non-traumatic, your normal day-to-day routines will change — making that objective increasingly challenging.

Whether you have injured your upper body, lower body, or both, activity levels are more than likely to decrease as you take time and rest to recover from your injury. Unfortunately, when you’ve been injured, on top of dealing with the initial injury, there can also be negative implications for cardiovascular health.

How Complex Orthopedic Issues Affect Heart Health

By definition, a complex orthopedic injury is any injury to bones, joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments that is likely caused by, but not limited to, trauma or degeneration. The range of injuries can vary from minor to severe, and all have their own effect on the body overall, such as dislocations, sprains, fractures or tears.

To understand how complex injuries can affect heart rate and health, we need to dive into cardiac physiology and our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is an internal system that upregulates or downregulates necessary hormones automatically. When trauma occurs, our heart rate increases in response to stress and injury by activating our “fight or flight” system – the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

In normal circumstances, the SNS is leveled out by the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) that regulates your heart rate to ~72bpm. But in trauma, our body is being pushed to limits beyond its ability to self-regulate. This can cause feelings of anxiety, stress, increased breathing rates and cause sweating.

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Decreased physical activity levels can lead to a plethora of cardiovascular health issues and put one at risk of developing other heart-related disorders such as: increased heart rate and blood pressure, causing the heart to work harder even acutely.

Once the initial trauma has been dealt with by a health care professional, such as, once you are in a cast for a broken bone, recovery begins. Therefore, any movement you can achieve following the injury, while still getting the amount of rest prescribed by your therapist, can help decrease the overall risk of heart problems.

Post-Injury Best Practice Guidelines

Whether you were extremely active before injury or not, a sedentary period (such as during recovery) can affect your overall health via small, negative changes in things like: increasing heart rate and blood pressure, which makes the heart work harder even at rest.

Extended periods of sedentary behaviour can also have negative effects on cardiovascular health such as: increasing your risk of blood clots, heart attacks, stroke and Type 2 Diabetes.

Did you know that only 16% of Canadians aged 18-79 years achieve enough physical activity in a week to reach Canada’s guidelines?

canadians received an F grade in participating in moderate to vigorous physical activity

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Exercising can seem daunting to think about, when you are recovering from an injury and fear making it worse. But well-planned physical activity prescribed by a health care professional can aim to combat the negative side effects on the heart by ensuring you are moving in a safe way that helps you both recover and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This is the reason why many post-injury best-practice guidelines are in support of early mobilization, within tolerable limits. This means, after getting clearance from a registered health professional after an orthopedic injury, you should aim to get up and move with professional guidance.

get up and move to help prevent heart disease

Getting up and moving brings you one step closer to your goals of regaining as much functional movement as possible and decreases the risk of cardiovascular problems in the future. In addition, the benefits of regular exercise also include increased energy levels, reduced risk of other injuries or health problems, and it can make you feel better in general. To learn more about exercise and how it can help you maintain heart health after an orthopedic injury, contact Propel Physiotherapy for an assessment.

Written by

Sabrina La Rosa
Sabrina La RosaRegistered Kinesiologist
Sabrina La Rosa’s approach to her practice comes from her understanding of neuroplasticity and the brain’s ability to adapt and grow beyond expectations. After completing a literature review on Modified Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy in Chronic Stroke Patients, she developed an interest in constraint training and using it to treat multiple injuries and not just strokes. She is excited about using this knowledge and her training to help her clients achieve their goals.





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