Recovery From a Wrist Fracture

Updated February 21, 2017

Wrist fractures can range from mild to severe. The severity of the injury will dictate your recovery. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 250,000 wrist fractures per year are due to osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis or if you are at risk for it, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Preventive medicine is less painful than recovering from a difficult injury.

Early Recovery

There are many factors that determine your immediate treatment and recovery. Your recovery depends on whether you need surgery, or if a cast is sufficient. You may have a simple fracture or a complex fracture. Your wrist bones may even be shattered. The bone may be through the skin, or not. If you have a simple fracture in which the bone is still aligned properly, your doctor will apply a splint. Once the swelling subsides (within a week), you'll have a cast applied to your wrist. Because the swelling will continue to subside, you'll likely need a new cast after two to three weeks.

If your fracture requires surgery, your surgeon may use a different method of keeping your bones in place during recovery. You may need a metal plate and screws or metal pins. Or you may need a cast. If you have surgery, you'll need to keep the incision area clean and dry until your doctor removes the sutures (possibly a week). Your doctor will recommend medications for pain relief. Applying ice to the area can also help, as can elevating your arm above your heart. If you have a cast or splint, you'll need to keep it dry at all times. To bathe, wrap the area securely in a plastic bag.

Long-Term Recovery

If you've had a cast applied to your arm, you can usually have it removed about six weeks following the fracture. Talk to your doctor about physiotherapy. Your doctor can help you decide if you can begin physiotherapy immediately or within days to weeks following treatment. Physiotherapy will help you restore range of motion, flexibility and muscle tone to your wrist.

A month or two following treatment, you may be able to exercise lightly, in activities like swimming or lower-body exercises. At about three to six months following treatment, patients can typically resume their normal activity level. You may still experience wrist stiffness. This should continue to improve in the next two years. However, in some cases (with severe injuries), you may suffer permanent wrist stiffness. You may also experience some pain when you participate in vigorous exercises in the year following treatment. If this occurs, discontinue the activity until your pain subsides. Applying ice or heat to the area may help.

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About the Author

Catherine Chase is a professional writer specializing in history and health topics. Chase also covers finance, home improvement and gardening topics. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Skidmore College.