Wrist Fractures – FAQ
By Sam Brown, ATC
What is a wrist fracture?
A wrist fracture is a medical term for a broken wrist. The wrist is made up of eight small bones which connect with the two long forearm bones called the radius and ulna. Although a broken wrist can happen in any of these 10 bones, by far the most common bone to break is the radius. This is called a distal radius fracture.
How do wrist fractures commonly occur?
A wrist fracture usually occurs from an injury such as falling down onto an outstretched hand. Severe trauma such as car accidents, motorcycle accidents, hits from impact sports, falls on inline skates and skateboards or falls from a ladder can cause more severe injuries.
I have osteoporosis. Does this increase my chance of fracturing my wrist?
Weak bones affected by Osteoporosis tend to break more easily, often due to the bone being brittle. Your physician may recommend calcium products during your healing process in order to allow for proper bone healing.
How bad is my wrist fracture? Will I need surgery?
Some fractures are more severe than others. Fractures that break apart the smooth joint surface or fractures that shatter into many pieces may make the bone unstable. These severe types of fractures often require surgery to restore and hold their alignment. An open fracture occurs when a fragment of bone breaks and is forced out through the skin. This can cause an increased risk of infection in the bone.
How does the physician determine if my wrist is broken?
Your hand surgeon will do a physical examination and obtain x-rays to see if there is a broken bone. Sometimes, tests such as a CT scan or MRI scan may be needed to get better detail of the fracture fragments and other injuries. Ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves may also be injured when the wrist is broken. These injuries may also need to be treated.
What are the common treatments for wrist fractures?
A padded splint might be worn at first in order to align the bones and support the wrist to provide some relief from the initial pain. If the fracture is not too unstable, a cast may be used to hold a fracture that has been set by your physician. Other fractures may benefit from surgery to put the broken bones back together and hold them in correct place.
How does surgery fix my fracture?
Fractures may be fixed with many devices. Pins, screws, plates, rods or external fixation can all be used. Sometimes the bone is so severely crushed that there is a gap in the bone once it has been realigned. In these cases, a bone graft may be added to help the healing process. Your hand surgeon will discuss the options that are best for your healing and recovery.
What is the typical healing time for a wrist fracture?
A typical wrist fracture will heal in 6-8 weeks. However, healing time can be increased based on severity of fracture, or in the presence of osteoporosis or other medical problems.
Will I need Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy during my recovery?
After about four to six weeks of immobilization, your physician may remove the cast and you may be referred to Occupational therapy, Physical therapy or Certified Hand Therapist. Some of the common impairments that your therapist may measure and evaluate include range of motion, strength, pain, and swelling. After your initial evaluation, your therapist will work with you to develop an appropriate plan of care to help improve the impairments and functional limitations that you may have.
If you would like to learn more about the wrist, go to our library. Here is a link to another article: https://www.joionline.net/trending/content/tendinitis-wrist-or-it-sprain-wrist