What Is A Wrist Fracture?

What is a Wrist Fracture?

A wrist fracture is a medical term for a broken wrist. The wrist is comprised of eight small bones which connect to the two long forearm bones, 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. A break of this bone is called a distal radius fracture.

JOI Wrist fracture, ulna and radius fractureWrist Fracture

How Do Wrist Fractures or Broken Wrists Commonly Occur? 

A wrist fracture usually occurs from an injury that involves falling down onto an outstretched hand. Severe trauma such as car accidents, motorcycle accidents, hits from impact sports, falls on inline skates or falls from a ladder can cause more severe injuries. Although wrists can fracture, parts of the wrist can also become torn or sprained. 

I have Osteoporosis. Does this Increase My Chance of Fracturing My Wrist? 

Weak bones affected by Osteoporosis tend to break more easily due to the bone being more brittle. Your physician may recommend calcium products or other supplements during your healing process to allow for proper bone healing.

How Does a Wrist Fracture Feel?

A fractured wrist is usually painful and movement is affected. If you have sustained a wrist fracture, you may experience:

  • Sharp pain in the bone which could be anywhere in the wrist, depending on which bone was injured.  The pain can move from the wrist into the fingers and even into the forearm.
  • Your wrist may feel tight due to the amount of swelling.
  • Tenderness or Pain to touch or palpation over the bone.
  • Difficulty and pain when attempting to move the fingers or wrist 

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. A popular example of a fracture in the hand is a Boxer’s Fracture, however there are many other types of wrist fractures.  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 physician by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and he practices at the San Marco location. 

How Does the Physician Determine if My Wrist is Broken? 

Your physician will do a physical examination and obtain x-rays to see if there is a broken bone and physical exam.  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 and will need to be treated.  To learn more about this subject, please read Wrist Fracture FAQ.

How Is a Wrist Fracture Treated?

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 or Activarmor splint 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 the correct place.

A broken wrist is a common injury treated by orthopedic surgeons.Anatomy of the Hand and Wrist.

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.

How Long Does It Take for a Wrist Fracture to Heal?

A typical wrist fracture will heal in 6-8 weeks. However, healing time can be increased based on the severity of the fracture or the presence of osteoporosis or other medical problems. There are ways that you can help your fracture heal properly and quickly.

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. You may then be referred to Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy or Certified Hand Therapy. Some of the common types of 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 want to learn more about orthopedic conditions and to schedule for physical therapy, please call 904-858-7045.  JOI Rehab employs the most CHT's in the North Florida Area. 

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904) JOI-2000.

By: Julia Guthart, Occupational Therapist/Certified Hand Therapist



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