How to care for a broken wrist

Written by cate rushton
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Wrist injuries are commonly caused by impacts during falls, no matter whether you slip in the car park at the grocery store, crash while riding your snowboard, or get tackled during a football game. Proper treatment and care of a broken wrist is important so that the bones will heal straight and true. If you do not seek treatment early on, you may find that your bones are not healing properly. You may need surgery that could have been avoided with earlier intervention.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cold pack
  • Towel
  • Pillow

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  1. 1

    Place a cold pack or ice bag on your wrist immediately after the injury. This will keep swelling down, which will speed healing (and will enable your doctor to apply an effective splint).

  2. 2

    Wrap a towel around your wrist to keep it as stable as possible while you travel to the emergency room or doctor's office.

  3. 3

    Seek medical attention immediately. When you arrive at the hospital or clinic, a medical professional will examine your wrist and order a set of X-rays to determine if the bones are broken, and the extent of the injury. If surgery is not needed, you will most likely be fitted with a splint on the day of your injury.

  4. 4

    Place ice on your injured wrist for 10 to 20 minutes every few hours over the course of the next three days.

  5. 5

    Take medication as ordered by the physician. If you were given pain medication, carefully follow the pharmacist's instructions. Most pain medication should not be taken before operating a car and can have adverse effects when consumed with alcohol.

  6. 6

    Elevate your wrist using a pillow or sling for several days after the break. A pillow can help to stabilise your wrist and minimise pain, and will also help keep swelling in check.

  7. 7

    Follow up with your doctor after your initial visit. Occasionally, the doctor will wait until the initial swelling goes down before applying a cast. Call to make an appointment the morning after your injury.

  8. 8

    Adhere to the doctor's instructions regarding the care of your cast. If your cast is not waterproof, do not allow it to get wet. This can cause itching, a rash and a foul odour.

  9. 9

    Call your doctor if you experience any of the following severe symptoms. Medical attention is needed if you cannot move your fingers, have tingling or numbness in your hands, feel burning or stinging, or have excessive swelling or severe pain.

Tips and warnings

  • Common breaks will require about 12 weeks of recovery time. For the first four weeks, your arm will be in a cast that extends from the middle of your hand, over your elbow. The following four weeks, your wrist will be in a smaller cast. During the final four weeks of recovery, your doctor may suggest that you wear a wrist brace.
  • Do not remove your cast or splint without your doctor's consent.

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