Wrist Hairline Fractures

By Samantha Brown, ATC, LAC

What is a Hairline Fracture in Wrist

Please watch this video on why wrist and hand pain can’t wait!

The quick answer, wrist hairline fractures, sometimes known as stress fractures, are a small crack in the bone. Hairline fractures are most common in weight-bearing extremities such as the feet and ankles. However, they may also be found in the wrist, particularly in individuals who participate in many overhead activities. Any bone that absorbs a lot of stress during activity is at risk for a hairline fracture.

Hairline fracture in wrist can be treated at JOI

Anatomy of the human hand and wrist.


The wrist is made up of eight small bones, called the carpal bones, which connect with the two long forearm bones called the radius and ulna. Although a hairline fracture can happen in any of these bones, by far, the most commonly affected bone is the radius. Anyone who engages in regular, repetitive physical activity can develop a hairline fracture.  Dr. Garry Kitay states, “The majority of wrist fractures heal with immobilization and conservative treatment. However, certain fracture types benefit from a surgical approach. Using modern fixation techniques and early rehabilitation, excellent outcomes are generally achieved.”  Dr. Kitay is a board-certified orthopedic hand specialist at the JOI San Marco Clinic.  If you would like to learn more about this subject, please go to Wrist Stress Fractures.

Causes of Wrist Hairline Fractures

Hairline fractures may occur as a result of a couple of different factors:

  1. Overuse or repetitive activities.
    1. Bones are rigid in maintaining their structure. However, they also have a degree of elasticity that allows them to react to specific movements, allowing them to bend to absorb the impact of certain activities slightly. However, when the same kind of strain is placed on a bone repetitively, a hairline fracture may develop.
  2. Change in type of activity.
    1. Regardless of the type of shape you are in, if you decide to switch the type of activity you do suddenly, it may place you at a higher risk for hairline fractures. This is due to the change in stress that you are placing on your bones.
Wrist Hairline Fracture

Scaphoid bone fracture

Risk Factors for Hairline Fractures

  • High impact sports and falls : Higher impacts result in more stress places on the bones.
  • Weakened bones: Conditions such as osteoporosis leave bones in a weakened state, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Malnutrition: Lack of vitamin D or calcium can make bones more susceptible to injury.
  • Gender: Women, especially those with absent menstrual periods, are at an increased risk for hairline fractures.
  • Previous hairline fractures: Having one hairline fracture leaves an individual at a higher risk of having another.

Signs & Symptoms or Wrist Hairline Fractures

Pain and other symptoms caused by hairline fractures are intensified when performing an activity that puts stress on the injured bone. It is important to note that pain from a hairline fracture will often present as an ache with some sharp pain during activity. This is different from a more severe fracture that will cause a significant amount of sharp pain immediately.

Other symptoms include:

  • Limited mobility or loss of motion and function.
  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Point tenderness and pain.

Diagnosis of a stress fracture of the wrist or hand

If you believe that you may have a wrist hairline fracture, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. If hairline fractures are left undiagnosed or untreated, they could cause further complications. The first step to a diagnosis is a physical exam by a physician. However, imaging may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • X-ray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Bone scan.

Hairline fractures may not always be visible on an x-ray. The best imaging test for diagnosing a hairline fracture is an MRI.

To learn how to about finger fractures, go to this ARTICLE.

Management of wrist fractures

Management for a hairline fracture can be done both at home and through medical treatment. Home treatments can include:

  • The RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Non-weight bearing activities to stimulate the healing process.
    • Swimming, cycling, or running in a pool may help.

Further treatment may be necessary if the pain becomes severe or does not get better with rest. A doctor may recommend:

  • Splinting to reduce strain on the affected bone or group of bones.
  • Surgery if the injury is not healing on its own.

Complete recovery usually takes between 6 to 8 weeks.

Related Articles: Hairline fractures of the arm and Bennett’s fracture break base your thumb

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JOI Fracture and Injury Care Services

If you have persistent wrist or hand pain, you should seek the advice of a JOI orthopedic hand specialist.  Give us a call at 904-JOI-2000, schedule online or click below.  JOI…. Where The Pro’s Go.

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By: Sam Brown, ATC

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