A broken wrist or broken hand is either a break or crack that occurs in one of the many bones present in your wrist and hand.
Wrist fractures often occur when people try to catch themselves during a fall and land hard on an outstretched hand. Non-displaced wrist fractures in which the bones do not move out of their place are stable.
In displaced fractures, the bones should be put back in their place through a procedure called reduction. Otherwise, the displaced bones cannot heal with proper alignment, which affects your ability to do your routne activities such as grasping a pen or even buttoning your shirt.
It is important to treat a broken wrist as early as possible. Sometimes, fractures may result in breaking of the smooth surface of the joint or shattering into several pieces (comminuted fractures), which makes the bone unstable.
These are severe injuries and often need surgery to restore their alignment. Risk factors for a broken wrist or broken hand range from participation in certain sports activities such as in-line skating or snowboarding to having a condition in which your bones more fragile (osteoporosis).
Early treatment will also help minimize pain and stiffness.
The treatment plan for broken wrist or hand depends on factors such as:
Fracture type: whether displaced, unstable or open
Your age, work, hobbies, activity level, and whether the affected one is your “dominant” hand
Your overall health condition and presence of other injuries
If the broken ends of the bone are out of alignment, your doctor will need to manipulate the bone fragments to bring back to their proper positions. This process is called fracture reduction. Depending on the severity of your pain and swelling, you may be given a muscle relaxant, a sedative or even a general anesthetic before this procedure.
This involves restriction of the movement of a broken bone in your wrist or hand, which is important for proper healing. To do this, a padded splint may be worn initially to align the broken bones and provide support to the wrist. If the fracture seems to be stable, a cast may be placed to hold the fracture that has been reduced.
To control the pain, your doctor may advise to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as
If the pain is very severe, you may need an opioid such as codeine.
You will need rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy once your cast or splint is removed in order to decrease the stiffness and restore movements in your wrist and hand. Rehabilitation is helpful, but may take several months — or even longer — for complete healing of severe injuries.
Surgical treatment and other procedures
In displaced fractures, where immobilization is not an option, you may require surgery to implant internal fixation devices, such as
rods or screws
to maintain proper position of your bones during the healing period. These internal fixation devices are indicated if you have the following injuries:
An unstable, displaced fracture
Loose bone fragments that may enter a joint
Damage to the surrounding soft tissues and ligaments
Fractures that involves a joint
If the bone has been severely crushed during injury, a gap remains in the bone even though it has been realigned. In such cases, a bone graft may be used to aid healing of the bone.
In some cases, the surgeon may use an external fixation device to immobilize your fracture. This device consists of a metal frame with two or more pins that go through your skin and inserted into the bone on either side of the fracture.
It is often impossible to prevent the untoward events caused by a broken wrist or broken hand.
Here are some basic tips that may offer some protection.
Build bone strength
You can build strong bones by:
Intake of a nutritious diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
Getting adequate weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking
Stopping smoking if you are a chronic smoker
Most broken wrists occur as a result of a fall forward onto an outstretched hand.
To prevent this type of injury, you should:
Wear appropriate shoes
Get rid of home hazards
Keep your home well-lit
Get your vision checked
Install grab bars in your bathroom
Install handrails on your stairways
Avoid walking on slippery surfaces such as snow- or ice-covered walkways
Use protective gear during athletic activities
Wear wrist guards while participating in high-risk activities such as
7 Lifestyle and Coping
Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with broken wrist or broken hand.
While you recover from broken wrist, it is necessary to keep your fingers moving so as to prevent them from being stiff.
Your surgeon will advise you the right time to start moving your wrist. Hand therapy is helpful in
The time required for recovery differs in each person, and some people may take several months.
8 Risk and Complications
Active participation in certain sports activities or presence of certain diseases may increase your risk of having a broken wrist or broken hand.
Certain activities may increase your risk of breaking your wrist bones. These include:
Jumping on a trampoline
You may be more susceptible to broken wrist or hand if you:
Are a chronic smoker as smoking affects the calcium absorption
Take food that is deficient in bone-building calcium and vitamin D
Complications rarely occur with a broken wrist or broken hand, but these may include:
Ongoing stiffness, aching or disability
Generally, stiffness, pain or aches in the affected part disappears within a month or two after your cast is removed or after surgery. Your condition continues to improve for up to two years after the injury.
If the injury was very severe, however, you may have some permanent stiffness or aching. Be patient during your recovery, and your doctor will teach you some exercises that might help or refer you to a physical or occupational therapist.
Fractures that involve the joint may lead to arthritis after some years. If you develop pain or swelling in your wrist or hand after a long time, consult your doctor for an evaluation.
Nerve or blood vessel damage
Wrist or hand trauma can injure the adjacent nerves and blood vessels. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any numbness or other circulation problems.
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