How Do I Treat A Broken Wrist
In most cases, it is not a good idea to treat a broken wrist yourself. If you believe that your wrist may have been severely sprained or broken, you should visit your local emergency room immediately. Once there, you will likely have to have an X-ray done to find out if your wrist is actually broken, where the fracture has occurred, and what type of fracture it is. These things will allow doctors to provide you with the proper treatment for your broken wrist.
Many times, the doctor will treat a broken wrist by first putting it in a brace or cast to keep the bone perfectly still as it heals. This is especially important if the break occurred right on the joint, because this area is generally much harder to keep still than just above or below the joint. You should make every effort to rest the area and allow your wrist to heal, even if it’s tempting to begin moving it again once the pain is gone. Depending on the break, you may have to leave the brace or cast in place for several weeks or longer before removal.
Some severe cases may result in surgery being needed to treat a broken wrist that is badly damaged. This most often occurs due to a traumatic injury, such as those which may occur during a sports game or automobile accident. Patients who are advised to have surgery will likely require a much longer healing time to allow for both the bone and surgical wounds to heal completely. A brace or cast will likely be required right after surgery.
How Does A Wrist Fracture Happen
Virtually anyone can take a tumble and end up with a broken wrist, says Dr. Swigart, but the majority of the people she sees with the problem fall into one of two categories.
The first group is elderly men and women who are vulnerable to wrist fracture because of low bone density. Because their bones are fragile, It doesnt take much of a fall to break the wrist, Dr. Swigart says.
Patients in the second group, she says, tend to be younger and more active, with fractured wrists resulting from what Dr. Swigart calls higher energy mechanisms, such as a skiing mishap or getting hit while playing contact sports. The breaks those patients sustain tend to involve the wrist joint and are often more severe, Dr. Swigart says.
Physical Therapy For Broken Wrist
Physical therapy for a broken wrist usually begins once the cast is removed about six weeks after the fracture has occurred. You might begin while your cast is still on if you have difficulty moving your fingers. Your therapist might fit you for a removable splint once the cast is off to help protect your wrist between exercise sessions.
Will I Need Surgery
In most cases, these conservative healing methods are enough. But if you have a particularly severe or complex fracture, surgery may be required because a cast wont be enough to help the bone heal correctly.
Surgery may involve the insertion of pins, screws, plates, or other devices to hold your bones in place to heal. We may recommend surgery in the following cases:
- A piece of bone has broken through your skin
- You have a bone broken in multiple places
- Your break extends into the wrist joint
- The broken pieces of bone have moved out of place
- Pieces of bone have injured a blood vessel or nerve
- You tore ligaments along with the break
If you suspect youve injured a wrist and have pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, or apparent deformity, make an appointment with our experts at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists.
We can diagnose a fracture and get you the treatment necessary to heal and restore function. either our Bethesda or Germantown, Maryland, office or use our online system to schedule a consultation.
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What You Can Do
You may want to write a list that includes:
- A description of your symptoms and how, where and when the injury occurred
- Information about your and your family’s medical histories
- All the medications and dietary supplements you take, including doses
- Questions you want to ask the doctor
For a broken wrist, questions to ask your doctor include:
- What tests do I need?
- What’s the best course of action?
- Will I need surgery?
- Will I need to wear a cast? If so, for how long?
- Will I need physical therapy when the cast comes off?
- Are there restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
Signs And Symptoms Of A Wrist Fracture
A wrist fracture is essentially the same thing as a broken wrist, and lets face it, if you break your wrist, its probably going to result in plenty of pain. Depending on the severity of the break, various treatments may be recommended, but how do you know if its a fracture and not just a sprain?
Recovery When You Don’t Need Surgery
To treat pain, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medicines. Using an ice pack and keeping your wrist raised above the level of your heart as much as possible should help reduce pain and swelling, too.
After several days, your doctor may replace your splint with a cast. Keep the cast dry unless it is waterproof. Your doctor will take X-rays every few weeks to see how your fracture is healing. While you still have the cast on, you may start movement exercises for your fingers, elbow and shoulder. These are called range-of-motion exercises. Your doctor may remove your cast after about six weeks.
Once you no longer have a cast or split, you may start range-of-motion exercises for your wrist. The goal is to prevent stiffness. When your wrist is less stiff and painful, you will add exercises to make your wrist stronger. may continue for about five weeks.
You should be able to return to most activities in 1 to 2 months. You should be able to return to all activities, including work or sports, in 3 to 6 months. It may take up to two years for wrist stiffness to go away.
Fractures Of The Ulna And Radius:
Following are few of the fractures of the radius and ulnar bones.
Colles Fracture: Colles fracture of the wrist is a condition described as a break in either of the bones of the forearm called as radius. The Colles fracture is a specific type of wrist fracture where there is displacement of the bone such that the wrist joint dislocates behind its normal anatomic position. The Colles fracture bends the wrist in an upward position.
Smiths Fracture:Smith fracture is also called as the reverse Colles fracture. A Smith fracture or a reverse Colles fracture is a condition, which is caused when there is a rupture in the end of the radial bone located near the wrist. Smiths fracture bends the wrist in a downward position.
Chauffeurs Fracture: Chauffeurs fracture is a condition where the styloid process or the rounded portion of the radius is damaged.
Galeazzis Fracture: Galeazzis fracture is a condition, which relates to fracture of the radius along with dislocation of the ulna.
Monteggias Fracture: Monteggias fracture is a condition which relates to fracture of the ulna along with dislocation of the radius.
How To Cope With A Broken Wrist
This article was co-authored by Laura Marusinec, MD. Dr. Marusinec is a board certified Pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where she is on the Clinical Practice Council. She received her M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin School of Medicine in 1995 and completed her residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Pediatrics in 1998. She is a member of the American Medical Writers Association and the Society for Pediatric Urgent Care.There are 27 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 27 testimonials and 91% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 486,542 times.
A broken wrist actually can include the distal radius and/or ulna as well as several other bones in the wrist . It is a fairly common injury.XResearch source In fact, the radius is the most commonly broken bone in the arm. One in 10 broken bones in the United States is a broken distal radius.XResearch source A broken wrist can happen when you fall or get hit by something. People at particularly high risk for broken wrists include athletes who play high-impact sports and people with osteoporosis . If youve been treated for a broken wrist, you will probably have to wear a splint or cast until your wrist heals. Read on to learn some ways to cope with a broken wrist.
What Does A Sprained Wrist Look Like
A mildly sprained wrist might be slightly swollen.
In more serious sprains, the swelling can be severe. You may have bruising.
Usually, a wrist pain is caused by physical trauma to the wrist. This typically happens when you fall onto an outstretched hand, an injury known as FOOSH.
You can sprain your wrist if it:
- suddenly twists
- moves in an abnormal position
- bends backward
This often happens during sports that commonly involve falls, such as:
- mountain biking
The injury can also be caused by overuse, which might occur in sports like tennis and boxing.
Wrist sprains can happen to anyone, not just athletes. You can sprain your wrist during accidents like slipping on ice or tripping over an object.
After your injury, apply ice to reduce swelling. Wrap an ice pack with a clean towel, then place it on your wrist for 20 minutes. Repeat two or three times a day.
You can also wrap your wrist with a compression bandage to minimize swelling. Heres how:
The Inner Workings Of Your Wrist
Your wrist is much more complex than it might seem with a quick glance down at your arm. In fact, there are 15 bones in the area from the end of your forearm to your fingertips .
In just your wrist alone there are 8 small carpal bones. Because each of these bones forms joints with the surrounding bones, the wrist can actually be thought of as a series of small joints .
Image by www.mayoclinic.org
Your carpals connect to the metacarpals of your hand and the radius and ulna of your forearm. Your carpal bones are surrounded by a group of stabilizing ligaments that connect carpals to each other and to surrounding bonds of your hand and forearm .
A sprain occurs when one of these ligaments is injured and suffers a partial or complete pair like might happen if you fall on your outstretched hand.
One particular ligament, the scapholunate ligament, is usually involved in those all-too-common FOOSH extension sprains. This ligament connects two carpals your scaphoid and lunate.
Your scaphoid sits just above your radius at the base of your thumb. Your lunate is next to the scaphoid and sits above the ulna, closer toward the center of your wrist .
With their location at the base of the wrist, these two carpals and the ligament that connects them tend to take the brunt of damage during an extension injury.
Surgical And Other Procedures
You might need surgery to implant pins, plates, rods or screws to hold your bones in place while they heal. A bone graft might be used to help healing. These options might be necessary if you have:
- An open fracture
- A fracture in which the bone pieces move before they heal
- Loose bone fragments that could enter a joint
- Damage to the surrounding ligaments, nerves or blood vessels
- Fractures that extend into a joint
Even after reduction and immobilization with a cast or splint, your bones can shift. So your doctor likely will monitor your progress with X-rays. If your bones move, you might then need surgery.
In some cases, the surgeon will immobilize your fracture by using an external fixation device. This consists of a metal frame with two or more pins that go through your skin and into the bone on both sides of the fracture.
Surgery For Wrist Fractures
Surgery is typically used for fractures that are deemed unstable or cannot be healed with a casting. Surgery is done through an opening over the pulse area on your wrist. This grants you full access to the breakage.
The pieces are assembled and kept in place with plates and screws.
If there are several bone fragments, it might not be possible to repair them with plates and screws. Doctors can use an external fixator with or without extra wires to stabilize the fracture in such situations. For an external fixator, most of the equipment stays outside the body.
Following surgery, doctors will apply a splint for two weeks before the first follow-up appointment. The splint will be substituted for a removable wrist splint worn for four weeks.
You can stop wearing the removable splint six weeks after surgery. It would be best if you continued the exercises given by your surgeon and therapist. Early movement is vital to recovering after surgery.
What Is The Treatment For A Distal Radius Fracture
Decisions on how to treat a distal radius fracture may depend on many factors, including:
- Fracture displacement
- Joint involvement
- Associated ulna fracture and injury to the median nerve
- Whether it is the dominant hand
- Your occupation and activity level
In any case, the immediate fracture treatment is the application of a splint for comfort and pain control. If the fracture is displaced, it is reduced before it is placed in a splint. Fracture reduction is performed under local anesthesia, which means only the painful area is numbed.
Dont Overlook Wrist Injuries
Wrist breaks, like virtually all broken bones, are better if treated early. This may be as simple as putting a brace on, which will freeze and protect the bone from pain and avoid displacement.
When treated late, some fractures, like the scaphoid fracture, have less of a chance of healing. Owing to the distinctive blood flow, scaphoid fractures have a greater chance of not healing or non-binding than most wrist bones. When this bone cannot heal properly, it will, over time, develop wrist arthritis.
How Long Does A Sprained Wrist Take To Heal
A mild wrist sprain will start feeling better 24 to 48 hours after you start treatment. It will fully heal in 1 or 2 weeks.
If you have a moderate or severe injury, recovery might last 6 to 8 weeks. Youll need to wear splint for most of this time.
In a severe sprain, your ligament will heal in 8 to 12 weeks. A full recovery may take 6 to 12 months, especially if you need surgery.
Its not always possible to avoid accidents, but you can reduce your risk of slips and falls.
Follow these tips to prevent wrist sprains:
- Use caution when walking in rain or icy weather.
- Wear wrist guards during activities like basketball, skiing, and skateboarding. If you fall, the wrist guard will stop your wrist from extreme motions.
- Wear shoes that properly fit to minimize the risk of falls.
- Lift heavy objects with both hands to reduce the pressure on each wrist.
I Broke My Wrist Do I Need Surgery
A broken wrist is extremely painful and inconvenient. You use your wrist for many activities that are part of your daily life, from scrolling on your cell phone to eating dinner.
With a broken wrist, you have to learn how to function with only one working wrist. You may even have to work with your opposite wrist if you broke the one on your dominant hand.
You might assume that a broken wrist always needs surgery because thats the outcome for many broken bones. However, surgery isnt necessary in all cases. Sometimes your wrist heals on its own.
Recovery From A Colles Wrist Fracture
A Colles wrist fracture can take a year or more to fully heal. Your cast will typically be removed about six weeks after surgery in a child, but relatively soon after surgery in an adult to mobilize the joint. You should be able to do light activities about a month or two after your cast is removed. Usually, you can start doing more intense activities about 3 to 6 months after surgery.
Your wrist will probably feel stiff for about a month or two after the cast is off. You might continue to have a dull ache or stiffness for about two years. Some people develop carpal tunnel syndrome after having a Colles wrist fracture. If youre older, you might not be able to fully move your wrist.
Diagnosing A Fractured Wrist
Your hand surgeon will perform a physical exam and get X-rays to see if a broken bone is present.
Scans like a CT scan or MRI scan might sometimes be necessary to get details on the fracture and other lesions. When the wrist fractures, even ligaments and tendons, as well as muscles and nerves, will get hurt. Doctors will also treat these injuries.
What Makes Yale Medicine’s Approach To Treating Wrist Fracture Unique
Treatment of wrist fracture can be quite complex. Dr. Swigart believes that patients benefit when treated by an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand surgery and performs many wrist fracture repair procedures.
There are a variety of ways to fix a distal radius fracture, including several different types of implants, explains Dr. Swigart. And while some types of implants are used often, others are only employed rarely. Its important to work with a doctor who knows about and is able to use all of them, she adds.
Also of value, Dr. Swigart says, is Yale Medicines involvement in clinical research, which often gives patients access to leading edge techniques and therapies well before they become widely available. For example, she says: My work includes both clinical and biomechanical research on treating wrist fracture, and our department has been consistently involved. Being involved in the research brings insights into why things work and which things work best.
Nonsurgical Treatment For Broken Wrist
Mild cases of broken wrist include just a displacement or deviation of the bone from its normal alignment. This may impair the use of the arm or wrist. Such deformities may be corrected with manipulation and reduction. Conservative care involves closed reduction with or without local anesthesia followed by casting or splinting of the wrist and hand. Fracture may require about six to ten weeks for complete recovery, which involves a period of immobilization for about 4 to 6 weeks followed by protective splinting for about 6 weeks.
Rehabilitation And Return To Activity
Most people do return to all their former activities after a distal radius fracture. The nature of the injury, the kind of treatment received, and the body’s response to the treatment all have an impact, so the answer is different for each individual.
Almost all patients will have some stiffness in the wrist. This will generally lessen in the month or two after the cast is taken off or after surgery, and continue to improve for at least 2 years. If your doctor thinks it is needed, you will start physical therapy within a few days to weeks after surgery, or right after the last cast is taken off.
Most patients will be able to resume light activities, such as swimming or exercising the lower body in the gym, within 1 to 2 months after the cast is removed or within 1 to 2 months after surgery. Vigorous activities, such as skiing or football, may be resumed between 3 and 6 months after the injury.
Symptoms Of Broken & Sprained Wrists
Usually in that case, if the pain subsides over the next few days, it’s typically considered a wrist fracture. But if the pain is not getting better and persists and the swelling gets worse, difficult use to the hand, etc., many times an X-ray is warranted to determine if it is a wrist fracture or not.
A Few Facts You Didnt Know About Wrist Fracture Recovery
A Few Facts You Didnt Know About Wrist Fracture Recovery
- Try elevating your arm, applying ice and taking non-prescription pain medicine
- A combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help keep swelling down as well
- If this is not enough, narcotics may be prescribed for use just after surgery
Casting & Proper At Home Care
- In the case of some wrist fractures, no surgery is necessary and casting is all that is required to reset the bone
- Casts are also used after surgery to immobilize the arm while it heals
- A cast will usually stay on for six weeks following surgery
- Keep your cast dry and after it is removed, keep your incision site dry until your stitches have been removed
Getting Back to a Healthy, Active Life
- Many patients will experience some wrist stiffness, which will gradually improve for up to two years after surgery
- Physical therapy may be helpful in regaining strength
- During the casted portion of your wrist fracture recovery, utilize other means of exercise, such as lower body workouts
- After three or four months have passed from your surgery date, check back in with your surgeon to find out if it is safe to resume more intense activities
Surgery For Distal Radius Fractures
This option is usually for fractures that are considered unstable or cant be treated with a cast. Surgery is typically performed through an incision over the volar aspect of your wrist . This allows full access to the break. The pieces are put together and held in place with one or more plates and screws.
In certain cases, a second incision is required on the back side of your wrist to re-establish the anatomy. Plates and screws will be used to hold the pieces in place. If there are multiple bone pieces, fixation with plates and screws may not be possible. In these cases, an external fixator with or without additional wires may be used to secure the fracture. With an external fixator, most of the hardware remains outside of the body.
After the surgery, a splint will be placed for two weeks until your first follow-up visit. At that time, the splint will be removed and exchanged with a removable wrist splint. You will have to wear it for four weeks. You will start your physical therapy to regain wrist function and strength after your first clinic visit. Six weeks after your surgery, you may stop wearing the removable splint. You should continue the exercises prescribed by your surgeon and therapist. Early motion is key to achieving the best recovery after surgery.
What Is A Colles Fracture
A Colles’ fracture — or distal radius fracture — is often called a ”broken wrist.”Â In France itâs sometimes called a âPouteau-Collesâ fracture. Technically, it’s a break in the larger of the two bones in your forearm. The bone breaks on the lower end, close to where it connects to the bones of the hand on the thumb side of the wrist.
Colles’ fractures are very common; they’re the most frequently broken bone in the arm. In the United States, 1 of every 10 broken bones is a broken wrist.