Wrist fractures are extremely painful and debilitating. If you’ve broken your wrist, don’t delay treatment.
The wrist consists of eight small bones that connect to the two bones in the forearm, the radius and ulna. Although any of those bones can break, resulting in a wrist fracture, fractures most commonly occur in the lower end of the larger of the two forearm bones, the distal radius.
Such a break, known as a distal radius fracture, typically results when we attempt to stop a fall with an outstretched hand while skiing or snowboarding, or when we suffer a powerful blow to the wrist, such as in a car accident. People with osteoporosis — a weakening of the bones — are more likely to break a wrist than others.
Pain, swelling, a tingling sensation in the fingers, and immobilization in the joint are all indicative of a wrist fracture. If you’ve broken your wrist, you may also notice a deformity in the joint. In some severe breaks, the bone pops through the skin in what is called an “open fracture.” An open fracture requires immediate medical attention to prevent the bone from becoming infected.
If you think you may have fractured your wrist, you should see a doctor for an X-ray or other imaging tests to determine the type of fracture you have and your treatment options.
Types and Treatments
Wrist fractures fall into two main categories: non-displaced or displaced. A non-displaced fracture means the bone is broken, but has not shifted out of place. A displaced fracture, on the other hand, is characterized by a bone wrenched out of alignment. In addition to the open fracture mentioned previously, a comminuted fracture is defined as a break that shatters the bone into several pieces.
Treatment depends upon the severity of the break, whether it occurred in your dominant hand, and your overall health. A splint followed by a cast around a non-displaced fracture stabilizes the bone while it heals. A displaced fracture receives the same treatment, but only after the doctor performs a reduction, a procedure that moves the broken bones back into position. You’ll wear a cast for about six weeks.
Severe breaks or breaks that cannot be held into proper alignment by a cast may require surgery. Wrist surgery usually involves a plate or screw attached to the bone to hold it in place. In some cases, the surgeon may fasten an external fixation device to the wrist. Made of a metal frame, this apparatus keeps the bone stable as it mends.
Some breaks cause a gap in the bone. Those injuries can be repaired by grafting bone into the missing piece.
Whether you have surgery or not, you’ll need physical and/or occupational therapy to maintain mobility and strength in the wrist and hand. During your recovery, you can take over-the-counter pain reducers or your doctor may prescribe pain medication.
How long your recovery takes depends on the type of fracture, the specific therapy, and how well your body heals. You may feel residual stiffness in the wrist for some time, and you should avoid vigorous activities such as skiing and football for three to six months after the injury. However, you can start less strenuous exercises that focus on the lower body about one to two months after the cast is removed or following surgery. Consult with your doctor about which activities are safe for you.
Do You Have a Broken Wrist?
Wrist fractures can be particularly painful and debilitating. Treatment helps ease the pain and restore full function to your hand and wrist. The hand specialists at Florida Hand Center can discuss various therapy methods that will do just that. Don’t continue suffering from wrist pain — make an appointment with us today.