A wrist fracture is a break in one of the bones of the wrist. The wrist joint lies where the two bones of the forearm join the small bones of the hand. The wrist joint normally bends forward and extends backward. A significant amount of force in any one of these directions can cause one or more of these bones to break.
Signs and symptoms of a wrist fracture include: bruisingdeformitylimitation of movementnumbness and tinglingpain that is usually severe and gets worse with time and movementswelling
A bone fracture occurs when the force against a bone is greater than the strength of the bone. Common causes of wrist fractures include: direct blow to the wrist, such as a sports injuryfalling onto an outstretched handan injury that causes the wrist to bend sharply backward
Factors that increase a person's risk of bone fracture include: cancers affecting the bonediet low in calcium or vitamin Deating disorders such as anorexia and bulimiaexcess alcohol intakefamily history of osteoporosismedicines such as corticosteroids, certain medicines for seizures, and some medicines used for high blood pressurehyperparathyroidism, a condition in which the parathyroid gland makes too much parathyroid hormonehyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormonehypogonadism, a condition in which the ovaries in women or testes in men do not function normallymenopause or surgical removal of the ovariesnormal aging, which causes the bones to become more brittleosteoporosis, excess bone thinning that results from loss of calcium in the bonephysical abuse, including child abuse, elder abuse, and spousal abuserheumatoid arthritis, a condition in which the body attacks its own joint tissuesedentary lifestylesmoking
Injuries that cause wrist fractures can sometimes be prevented by: exercising caution when walking on ice or snowfollowing rules at pools, water parks, and other recreational areasfollowing sports safety guidelines for children, adolescents, and adults
To avoid wrist fractures in elderly individuals, the home should be made safe to prevent falls. Ways to increase safety include: having comfortable shoes with nonslippery soleshaving safe, well-lit, and uncluttered areasusing a cane or walker as neededusing no throw rugs on floorsusing nonskid mats in the shower and bathtub
Intriguing new research done in older individuals with arthritis found that brisk walking or weight training improved balance in those individuals. Improved balance could very well help avoid wrist fractures from falls.
Bone loss, which increases a person's risk of fractures, can be slowed by doing 30 minutes of moderate weight-bearing exercise a day. Weight-bearing exercise includes low-impact aerobics, walking, running, lifting weights, tennis, and step aerobics. A person doing moderate exercise can talk normally without shortness of breath and is comfortable with the pace of the activity. The 30 minutes a day can be done all in one session or broken up into smaller time periods.
Individuals can help prevent osteoporosis, and thus reduce their risk of bone fractures by: avoiding smokingeating a well-balanced diet, following the food guide pyramideating 25 grams of soy protein dailyfor women who have reached menopause, using hormone replacement therapygetting effective treatment for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and hyperthyroidismlimiting alcohol intake
Diagnosis of a wrist fracture begins with a medical history and physical exam. A joint X-ray can confirm the diagnosis. Rarely, a bone scan or MRI may be needed to detect hidden fractures.
Treatments to reduce pain and swelling are initially used for a wrist fracture. This includes medicine, elevating the injured arm, and applying ice. The treatment then involves returning the bones to their proper position and realigning broken ends. A cast, which holds the repaired bones in place, is the most common treatment method. Sometimes a temporary splint is used to allow for swelling before a cast is put on.
Surgery may be necessary for a severe fracture. It may also be used if the bones are not realigned properly or if the skin is open. In rare cases, a bone graft is used. In this procedure, a piece of bone is used to replace a damaged bone. Joint X-rays will need to be taken frequently to make sure the fracture is in a good position throughout the healing process. Exercises to maintain the flexibility of the fingers, elbow, and shoulder are also recommended.
Surgery can be complicated by infection, bleeding, or reactions to the anesthesia.
Most wrist fractures heal without problems. Initially after the cast or splint is removed, the arm or wrist is pale and slightly weak from lack of use. Physical therapy may be necessary to restore normal motion, strength, and function. Over time and with careful use, strength is gradually regained.
Possible long-term effects may include: arthritisdeformity, such as the shortening of one of the bones in the forearmdiscomfort or stiffnessnumbness or tingling in the handa weak grip
More serious long-term effects from a broken wrist can occur but are seen less often. Occasionally, tendons can be caught in scar tissue or break over a rough bone. Rarely, a person will develop "shoulder-hand syndrome," which includes: bluish swelling of the hand and fingersdepressionpainstiffness from the shoulder to the fingersweakness
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.