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How To Treat A Broken Wrist

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How To Ensure Quicker Broken Wrist Recovery

How to Treat a Fractured Wrist

A broken wrist can heal and recover faster when it is diagnosed as soon as possible. After alignment and casting, you can do the following to facilitate faster broken wrist recovery:

  • Elevate the wrist. This will help ease pain and swelling, if theres any.
  • Ice your wrist. Its advisable to ice the affected wrist for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours within the first 2 to 3 days of getting the wrist broken. Make sure to keep the cast or splint dry.
  • Take pain relief medication as prescribed. Take the painkillers prescribed to you as instructed and on schedule. Your doctor will likely prescribe NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Secure occupational therapy for wrist fracture. Make sure that you get regular occupational therapy for your wrist.

Signs Of A Sprained Or Broken Wrist

A sprain is often indicated by inflammation, bruising, and warmth on the affected area around your wrist. It can also be determined by experiencing tenderness or a tearing or popping sensation in your wrist.

Meanwhile, a broken wrist is usually more painful, especially when you try to perform any kind of movement with it. Sometimes, your broken wrist can become deformed or bent, along with witnessing noticeable swelling and bruises. You will require a hand doctors immediate treatment following a fractured wrist. 

Diagnosis And Treatment: How Dr Knight Can Help

A physical examination from the doctor, combined with a detailed medical history, may be enough to diagnose the injury; however, an x-ray is deemed the gold standard to identify a fracture. That said, some smaller breaks e.g., a scaphoid fracture may take up to two weeks to appear on an x-ray, complicating diagnosis in the emergency room or urgent care immediately after the injury. In these cases, an MRI or CT scan, which elucidate damage to the soft tissues of the joint, can improve diagnosis.

Treatment for wrist sprains and fractures may be non-surgical or surgical. Immobilization with a splint or cast is common for milder fractures, while various surgical techniques such as the use of pins to fix fractured bone segments together may be needed for complex or severe breaks.

Wrist sprains seldom require surgery, but they can be tricky and often cause much more damage than is apparent. The use of ice, compression, and splinting can go a long way for milder sprains, but a full tear of a ligament will require surgical repair.

It is important for both injuries to be treated as soon and as comprehensively as possible to avoid any lasting, chronic pain or malformation of the joint. Dr. Knight is one of the premier national wrist specialists with extensive experience in non-surgical and surgical treatment of the wrist. For a deep dive on the treatments offered by Dr. Knight for each injury, see the wrist sprain, wrist fracture, and scaphoid fracture pages.

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Preventing A Wrist Fracture

Of course, the best advice is not to fall! That may seem perfectly logical, but many times you can prevent accidents from happening by being alert. Here are some examples of common things to avoid:

  • Loose rugs on the floor
  • Items or toys scattered on the floor
  • Using a ladder in an unsafe way
  • Slippery floors
  • Be careful with pets around your feet

Apart from that, you can take a few measures to keep a wrist injury from happening.

  • Follow a diet containing calcium and vitamin D to build bone strength
  • Do weight-training exercises

Common Causes Of A Wrist Fracture

Treat a Work

Most people break their radius bone, which is one of the two main bones in the forearm that is connected to 8 smaller bones. Common causes of a wrist fracture or break include the following:

  • Attempting to stop a fall using your outstretched arm and hand
  • Falling off a bike or ladder
  • Car or motorcycle accident
  • Playing sports
  • Osteoporosis

If your wrist is swollen and painful, it is best to consult with Carrollton Orthopaedic Clinic for a diagnosis. If you wait too long and simply ice it and keep it elevated, you could cause even more damage. Its better to have the appropriate tests completed to know what you are dealing with, as treatment will be very different for a broken wrist compared to one that is simply sprained.

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Understanding Hand And Wrist Fractures

The wrist is one of the most complex joints in the body, so wrist fractures often involve a lot of different bones at once. These typically include the tiny bones at the base of the hand, called carpal bones. A fractured wrist causes almost immediate pain and tenderness. These decrease, and then worsen, when pressure is applied between the tendons that connect to the thumb. Bruising and swelling are also common symptoms of a hand or wrist fracture. In some cases, your wrist may look bent or hang differently. Making a fist can be challenging with a wrist fracture as well. Its common for wrist fractures to include additional damage such as ligament injury, wrist sprains or dislocation.

The two large bones in the forearm, the radius and the ulna, can also be affected by a wrist fracture. The radius runs along the thumb side of the forearm, while the ulna is on the outer side of the forearm. Fracture of these larger bones can cause the hand and wrist to go out of alignment.

When finger bones are fractured, the finger is hard to move and feels very painful. The affected digit feels tender and often looks swollen. Sometimes the finger looks shorter or even deformed, and the fingers may cross each other incorrectly when you try to make a fist.

Recovery When You Dont 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.

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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.

Treatment For A Broken Wrist

Learning About a Broken Wrist and Understanding the Recovery

If you believe youve sprained your wrist, you should treat it with ice, stabilize it with a brace or splint, and keep it elevated. Nevertheless, if youre concerned that you may have fractured it or the pain and swelling intensifies, apply ice, and then see a hand specialist as soon as possible.

Many wrist fractures do not require surgery, and can adequately treated in a cast or brace.  Sometimes it does require the bones to be set or put back in alignment.  Open surgery is usually reserved for fractures with significant displacement, or recurrent displacement after attempted reduction and immobilization.

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A Few Facts You Didnt Know About Wrist Fracture Recovery

A Few Facts You Didnt Know About Wrist Fracture Recovery

Were talking about wrist fractures.Wrist Fracture RecoveryTalk to Your Surgeon About How to Manage Your Pain & Swelling

  • 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

Things to Look Out For

What Is A Distal Radius Fracture

The radius is one of two forearm bones and is located on the thumb side. The part of the radius connected to the wrist joint is called the distal radius. When the radius breaks near the wrist, it is called a distal radius fracture.

The break usually happens due to falling on an outstretched or flexed hand. It can also happen in a car accident, a bike accident, a skiing accident or another sports activity.

A distal radius fracture can be isolated, which means no other fractures are involved. It can also occur along with a fracture of the distal ulna . In these cases, the injury is called a distal radius and ulna fracture.

Depending on the angle of the distal radius as it breaks, the fracture is called a Colles or Smith fracture.

  • A Colles fracture may result from direct impact to the palm, like if you use your hands to break up a fall and land on the palms. The side view of a wrist after a Colles fracture is sometimes compared to the shape of a fork facing down. There is a distinct bump in the wrist similar to the neck of the fork. It happens because the broken end of the distal radius shifts up toward the back of the hand.
  • A Smith fracture is the less common of the two. It may result from an impact to the back of the wrist, such as falling on a bent wrist. The end of the distal radius typically shifts down toward the palm side in this type of fracture. This usually makes for a distinct drop in the wrist where the longer part of the radius ends.

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How Long Does It Take To Heal A Wrist Fracture

Fractures usually take 6 to 8 weeks to heal.  Hairline fractures may heal faster depending on the severity.  Some types of fractures are more delicate and may require continued care.  A fracture of the Scaphoid bone in the wrist is one that can cause complications.  The Scaphoid is one of the 8 carpal bones which is closest to the thumb.  It is unique because of its blood supply.  Compromise of the artery which feeds the Scaphoid can lead to healing problems and may pose a medical emergency.  

If you would like to learn more about fractures of the arm, please go to: Hairline fractures of the arm.JOI Fracture and Acute 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 JOI-2000.  JOI has specially trained hand orthopedic surgeons at all of our 5 area physician offices. 

If you have wrist pain or are concerned about a hairline wrist fracture, JOI can help!  Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has the fields top hand/ upper extremity surgeons and microvascular specialists.  We also provide the latest technology in casting, splinting, and treatment.  Come See Us!

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Common Types Of Wrist Fractures

Wrist Fracture
  • Distal means away from the centre of your body, so in this case, closer to your hand. Your radius is the forearm bone that connects to your carpal bones, on the thumb side of you hand. Therefore, a distal radius fracture is a broken forearm bone close to your wrist crease, on the thumb side.
  • A Colles fracture is a type of distal radius fracture.
  • Usually happens by falling onto an outstretched hand , with your hand extended backwards.
  • This fracture causes the broken piece of the radius bone to move higher up on the back of the wrist. The dinner fork deformity .
  • A Smiths fracture is a less common type of distal radius fracture
  • Usually happens by either falling onto your wrist while its flexed forwards, or a direct blow to the back of the wrist.
  • Sometimes called a reverse Colles fracture, and the fracture causes the broken piece of bone to move forward in the wrist.
  • Can be more serious because the front of the wrist is where the blood vessels and nerves are situated

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How Is A Wrist Fracture Diagnosed

A wrist fracture hurts, sometimes a lot. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, swelling and/or bruising. A doctor may diagnose a wrist fracture based on information gathered from the patient, a physical exam, and X-rays. High-energy fractures are usually evaluated with a computerized tomography scan, in addition to X-rays, to better identify the pattern of the injury, says Dr. Swigart. Magnetic resonance imaging is occasionally necessary, too.

How Long Will Healing Take

If you’re reading this article, you probably want to know how long it takes for a broken wrist to heal.

Generally, recovery for adults takes about six to eight weeks .1 Everyone’s situation is different. My recovery took longer than most due to the severity of my injury .

Recovery can mean different things, however. Though the bones may be healed at eight weeks, full recovery could be a much longer and difficult process, especially for adults and older adults. You should expect , a huge reduction in mobility and a lot of stiffness. You will have to work hard in order to regain all of the use of your hand and wrist, but don’t give up! It will be worth it. See the comments section to learn about other peoples’ experiences and ask your own questions.

Here are some more details:

When will you get back to doing the things that you love ?

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My Experience With Broken Wrists And Surgery

In July 2007, I was on a mountain biking trip in the French Alps and fell from the balcony of the second floor of a building. Unfortunately it wasnt as exciting as a bike crash, and no, I didn’t try to kill myself .

After I fell, I had to get up all by myself and go upstairs to go back to the second floor where my friends were. I still dont know where I found the strength to search for my friends and get their help. I guess my love for life certainly helped!

When I finally reached my friends, they called the paramedics and I was taken to the hospital right away. Well . . . almost right away. We actually had to stop twice to get some money from an ATM since the ambulance would only take me to the hospital after I paid for the service.

Due to the severity of the fractures, I had to be operated on as soon as I got to the hospital.

During this surgery , doctors fixed both my wrists with titanium plates and screws, and they also put an external fixation on my right wrist. This external equipment was attached to both the radius and forefinger metacarpal bones by four screws, two in each bone.

Back in Portugal , the external fixation was removed two months after the operation. They took it out without any anesthesia which made it an unforgettable moment for me .

At this point, I started daily physiotherapy sessions and immediately began to see good results.

How Do I Treat A Broken Wrist

How can you tell if your wrist is sprained or broken?

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 its 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.

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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.

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.

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Surgical Broken Wrist Treatment

If the broken bones are severely out of place, surgery may be required to improve alignment. This surgery may involve installing devices to keep the bones in place as they heal. These devices include metal pins, plate, and screws, as well as an external fixator.

After the surgery, the hand and arm will be put in a cast. Once the bones heal, the patient can begin occupational therapy for wrist fracture. This will help with faster recovery and restoration of motion.

How Do You Know If You Fractured Your Wrist

Wrist Fracture, Treatments Best Ways to Heal Fast

If you fell on your wrist or got injured during recreational sports, you may have a broken wrist. This injury involves a fracture or crack in one or more of the bones in your wrist. This type of injury is quite common among children and adults alike. It can happen when you try to break your fall when skateboarding, rollerblading, riding a horse, etc. Its happened to people during home construction or home renovation projects. People who play contact sports or engage in high-intensity sports like skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking are also at risk for wrist fractures, although anyone can experience it.

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Diagnosing A Wrist Injury

When you injure your wrist, your doctor will ask you to describe how the injury occurred and perform a physical examination. Common physical tests during the examination could include:

  • Inspecting for deformity, bruising, swelling, and lacerations
  • Palpating the critical structures to assess the location of the injury
  • Testing your joints to assess their stability

Based on the exam, your doctor may then order an x-ray. An x-ray is needed to decipher between a sprain and a fracture in most situations. If the x-ray appears normal but your symptoms are severe and persistent, your doctor may order additional tests such as a CT scan or an MRI. Rarely would a bone scan would be needed.

Its important to note that fractures of the scaphoid can masquerade as a sprain. This is because sometimes scaphoid fractures arent as painful as distal radius fractures . Your practitioner should check the scaphoid for tenderness and if theres any suspicion, then special x-rays, a CT scan, an MRI, or early follow up and recheck are necessary.

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Whats The Treatment For A Wrist Sprain

While they can bench you for a while, the good news is that minor-to-moderate wrist sprains should heal on their own. They just need a little time. To speed the healing, you can:

  • Rest your wrist for at least 48 hours.
  • Ice your wrist to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 20-30 minutes every three to four hours for two to three days, or until the pain is gone.
  • Compress the wrist with a bandage.
  • Elevate your wrist above your heart, on a pillow or the back of a chair. as often as you can.
  • Take anti-inflammatory painkillers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , like Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, will help with pain and swelling. However, these drugs can have side effects, like an increased risk of bleeding and ulcers. They should be used only occasionally, unless your doctor specifically says otherwise.
  • Use a cast or splint to keep your wrist immobile. This should only be for a short time, until you see the doctor. Then follow the doctors advice about whether or not to continue using a splint. Using a splint for too long can result in more stiffness and muscle weakness in some cases.
  • Practice stretching and strengthening exercises if your doctor recommends them. It is best if you see a physical or occupational therapist to guide a program specific to your condition. 

More severe Grade III wrist sprains, in which the ligament is snapped, may require surgery to repair.

Continued

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