What you Need to Know About Wrist Fractures
Although it’s technically a break in one of the bones of your forearm, a distal radius fracture—also known as a Colles’ fracture—is often referred to as a broken wrist. The fracture occurs on the thumb side of your wrist, near where it connects to your hand bones; in this type of break, the larger of your forearm bones (the radius) fractures at the end closest to your hand.
What are the symptoms of wrist fractures?
People who play contact sports are especially vulnerable to wrist fractures, but anyone can suffer a broken wrist. It’s a very common injury, and is often the result of reaching out to break a fall and landing on the outstretched arm and wrist. A blow to the wrist can also cause a fracture.
Typical symptoms include pain, tenderness, and swelling; there may also be bruising, and the pain will probably be worse when trying to flex the wrist. If the break is severe, the wrist may be misshapen—crooked or bent at an unnatural angle.
Wrist fractures are sometimes difficult to see on X-ray, and to diagnose a fracture you may need several sets of X-rays in addition to a thorough physical examination. Although it’s not common, a broken wrist can sometimes impair blood flow to your hand or injure nerves. This can be serious, and you should go to the emergency room immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Your wrist is in severe pain
- You have numbness in your hand, your wrist, or your arm
- Your fingers look pale—this could mean poor blood flow
What’s the treatment for wrist fractures?
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the fracture, but usually consists of resetting the bones if they’re not in their proper position, then immobilizing the wrist till healing is well underway.
Treatment can include:
- Splinting the wrist. A splint is sometimes used till the initial swelling goes down and a cast can be applied; this usually happens a week or so after the injury occurs.
- A cast. A cast keeps the bones immobile while they heal. How long you must wear the cast depends on the severity of the break, but casts are usually removed after six to eight weeks.
- Elevation. In the beginning, you may need to elevate your wrist to reduce pain and swelling.
- Ice. You may also need to ice the injured wrist every two or three hours for 15-20 minutes over the first few days after the injury. This too helps reduce pain and swelling.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and swelling.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises. If your doctor feels they will be helpful, he may advise stretching and strengthening exercises for your fingers, elbow and shoulder.
In most cases, these treatments are all that’s necessary. However, severe or complex fractures may sometimes need surgery.
Where can I find treatment for wrist fractures on Long Island?
Mirza Orthopedics is Long Island’s leading orthopedic practice. We specialize in the treatment of all types of hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder conditions including all types of wrist fractures.
When you’ve suffered a wrist injury, an evaluation from an experienced orthopedic wrist specialist is critical. This allows you to get to the bottom of your particular symptoms and learn about your treatment options.