What Does Non Weight Bearing Mean: Understanding the Meaning and Implications

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Kyle

what does non weight bearing mean

Non weight bearing (NWB) is a term used to describe a medical restriction placed on an individual’s lower extremity. It means the person cannot put any weight on that limb for a specified period. A healthcare professional usually recommends this restriction, which can be due to various reasons such as a fracture, ruptured tendon, or damaged ligament.

When a person is non weight bearing, they must rely on assistive devices such as crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs to move around. This restriction allows the injured area to heal correctly without any additional stress or strain. It is important to follow the non weight bearing instructions carefully to ensure a smooth and speedy recovery.

Non weight bearing can be a challenging restriction to deal with, especially if it is for an extended period. However, it is essential to remember that this restriction is temporary and necessary for proper healing. By following the non weight bearing instructions and using assistive devices, individuals can maintain their mobility and independence while allowing their injury to heal.

Definition of Non Weight Bearing

Non weight bearing refers to a medical condition where a person is not allowed to put any weight on their injured leg, ankle, or foot for some time. This can range from a few weeks to several months.

This restriction is usually prescribed by a doctor after an injury or surgery to allow the affected area to heal properly. During this time, the person may need to use crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair to move around.

Non weight bearing is the most restrictive weight-bearing limitation and means that no weight can be placed on the affected limb. This is necessary to avoid further damage to the injured area and to promote healing.

Reasons for Non Weight Bearing

Non weight bearing is a term used when a person is not allowed to put any weight on a particular body part, usually a leg or foot. This restriction can be temporary or permanent, depending on the underlying condition.

There are several reasons why a person may be instructed to be non weight bearing:

  • Injury: Non weight bearing is often recommended after an injury to the leg or foot, such as a fracture or sprain. This helps to reduce pain and swelling and allows the injured area to heal properly.
  • Surgery: After certain types of surgery, such as joint replacement or ligament repair, non weight bearing may be necessary to protect the surgical site and prevent damage.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as osteoporosis or neuropathy, can weaken the bones or nerves in the legs and feet, making it difficult or dangerous to bear weight.

Non weight bearing may also be recommended during pregnancy to relieve pressure on the pelvis and lower back.

How to Achieve Non Weight Bearing

Non-weightbearing refers to the restriction of putting any weight on the affected limb after surgery or injury. Achieving non-weightbearing requires following specific instructions from your doctor or physical therapist. The following tips can help make the process easier:

  • Use crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair to move around without putting weight on the affected limb.
  • Avoid standing on the affected limb when getting dressed or performing other daily activities.
  • Elevate the affected limb to reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • Use ice packs or heat therapy as recommended by your healthcare provider.

It is essential to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully to ensure proper healing and avoid complications. Remember that non-weightbearing can be challenging, but you can successfully achieve it with the right support and guidance.

Precautions and Risks of Non Weight Bearing

Non-weight bearing is a common restriction after surgery or injury. It is important to follow this restriction to allow proper healing. However, there are some precautions and risks that you should be aware of while non-weight bearing.

  • Do not try to walk or bear weight on the affected limb. This can cause further injury and delay healing.
  • Use crutches or other assistive devices as your healthcare provider recommends to avoid putting weight on the affected limb.
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods, as this can pressure the affected limb and delay healing.
  • Be cautious when using stairs or walking on uneven surfaces, as this can increase the risk of falls and injury.

There are also some risks associated with non-weight bearing, including:

  • Muscle atrophy is the loss of muscle mass and strength due to lack of use. This can make it more difficult to regain strength and mobility once the restriction is lifted.
  • Joint stiffness can occur if the joint is not moved regularly. This can make it more difficult to regain range of motion and flexibility once the restriction is lifted.
  • Pressure sores, can occur if you spend too much time in one position. To prevent pressure sores, try to shift your weight and change positions frequently.

Recovery and Rehabilitation for Non Weight Bearing

Recovery from non weight bearing can take weeks to months, depending on the severity of the injury or surgery. During this time, following the doctor’s instructions and avoiding any weight-bearing activities is important.

Rehabilitation usually involves physical therapy to help regain strength, flexibility, and balance. Non weight bearing activities such as swimming, cycling, or upper body exercises can help maintain fitness while the injury heals.

Assistive devices such as crutches, walkers, or knee scooters may be necessary to help with mobility. It is important to use these devices correctly and to avoid putting any weight on the affected limb.

As the injury heals and weight-bearing is gradually allowed, it is important to follow a gradual progression to avoid re-injury. Specialized boots or shoes may be necessary to provide support and protection during this time.

Overall, recovery and rehabilitation for non weight bearing require patience, dedication, and adherence to medical instructions. Most individuals can regain full function and return to normal activities with proper care.


Southeast Orthopedic Specialists

Foot Care MD