What is a wrist fracture?
The wrist is made up of 8 small bones (carpal bones) which connect with the two long forearm bones called the radius and ulna. A wrist fracture occurs when one of these bones is broken, which often results from a fall on an outstretched hand, as well as from trauma such as a road traffic accident, sporting accident, or a fall from height.
The most common bone that fractures in the wrist is the lower end of the radius bone, also called a distal radius fracture. Due to osteoporosis, distal radius fractures tend to occur more frequently among elderly women.
How do I know if I have a wrist fracture?
Signs and symptoms of a wrist fracture may include:
- Warmth, bruising or redness
- Obvious deformity of the bone or joint
- Inability to use or move the injured wrist or nearby joints
- Unable to put weight on the wrist/hand
How are wrist fractures diagnosed?
Your specialist Doctor will obtain your health history and perform a physical examination. Your Doctor may also order radiological investigations (e.g. X-rays, CT scans) to help diagnose the fracture.
How are wrist fractures treated?
Wrist fractures can be treated both surgically and non-surgically, depending on the severity of the injury.
Fractures that are stable may be realigned manually by your specialist Doctor and immobilised by a cast or splint. The cast or splint helps to hold the fractured bone in a stable position while it heals and needs to be worn for 4 to 6 weeks on average. Once your specialist Doctor ascertains that the fracture is stable and healing adequately, your Doctor will refer you to our Hand Therapist to start gentle wrist and hand exercises.
Sometimes, when the wrist fracture is more severe, unstable or complex, your specialist Doctor may recommend that you undergo surgery to secure the fractured bones back in place with metal implants. After surgery, your specialist Doctor will refer you to our Hand Therapist when it is safe for you to begin gentle wrist and hand exercises.
Joint stiffness, muscle tightness, weakness and loss of function of the wrist and hand are common problems in the early stages of recovery from a wrist fracture. As such, daily activities such as self-care (e.g. dressing, showering, brushing of teeth), work activities and leisure pursuits (e.g. sports activities, baking) are often affected. Hand therapy plays a pivotal role in the recovery of upper limb movement, strength and function after a wrist fracture. Most wrist fractures take around 3 months to heal before you are able to return to your normal daily activities, and full recovery from these injuries can take up to a year.
If you require protective immobilisation for your wrist fracture, your specialist Doctor may refer you to our Hand Therapist for a customised splint. Once you are able to start therapy for your wrist and hand, our Hand Therapist can then help you in your recovery through treatment options such as:
- Advice and education pertaining to your condition
- Wax therapy
- Ultrasound therapy
- Exercises to improve wrist/finger joint and muscle movements
- Management of swelling
- Scar management
- Strengthening exercises
- Soft tissue mobilisation and release
- Pain relief/management
- Functional retraining of the wrist and hand
- Personalised home exercise program