Wrist fractures can occur when you fall forward and try to break the fall by throwing your hands forward, causing your radius or ulna--the bones in forearm attached to the wrist--to buckle. A broken wrist usually causes immediate pain, swelling and bruising. Sometimes, you can see the deformity of the wrist by the way it bends. If the wrist is not very painful and not deformed, you may be able to wait one day before seeing a doctor; meanwhile, put the wrist in a splint and protect with ice and elevation. Otherwise, go to the emergency room. The doctor will take an X-ray to classify the fracture and determine how it should be treated.
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- Moderately Challenging
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If the broken wrist is in a good position, have the doctor apply a plaster cast. Keep the cast on for about six weeks while the bone heals.
If the alignment of your wrist needs to be corrected, have it realigned by the doctor. The bone may be able to be straightened without an incision, which is called a closed reduction, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. After the wrist is aligned, have a splint or cast applied. Usually, a splint is used for the first few days while the arm swells. A cast is added a few days later, after the swelling goes down. The swelling will continue to decrease, and the cast usually will be changed two to three weeks later, according to AAOS.
If the bone is completely out of place, allow your doctor to perform surgery. In some cases, the doctor may need to realign the bones in a procedure called an open reduction. There are different ways to hold the bone into place: metal pins, plate and screws, an external fixation device and a cast, according to AAOS.
While the bone is healing, with a cast or a surgical device, curb the pain by keeping your wrist elevated, and use ice. Fractures often will hurt for several days or weeks.
Take pain medications. You may need only non-prescription drugs, such as a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen. If pain is more severe, have your doctor prescribe a prescription medication for the first few days.
Do physiotherapy to restore the movement in your wrist. If your doctor recommends it, you can do this after your cast is removed or soon after surgery. Rehabilitation exercises will help regain your original function, but they can take several months to complete the healing process.
Begin to resume activity. You can get back to doing light exercise within a month or two after the cast is taken off or after surgery, says AAOS. Wait about three to six months after the injury to resume vigorous activity.
Tips and warnings
- Full recovery will take at least a year. You may continue to feel some pain with vigorous exercise during that time.
- According to AAOS, osteoporosis may be a partial cause of wrist fractures, especially in older people. You may need to be screened for osteoporosis.
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