A broken wrist can sound like a big, big problem. Don’t get us wrong, we take wrist fractures seriously around here. Wrist injuries are actually pretty common. This is probably because, when we fall, our natural instinct is to reach out a hand. As the hand comes into contact with the ground and body weight presses on the joint, it’s quite likely that muscle or bone will be damaged.
In technical terms, a broken wrist is referred to as a distal radius fracture. The forearm has two bones, with the radius being the longer of the two. The distal end of the radius is, you guessed it, the wrist, hence the reference as “distal radius fracture.”
There are a few different ways the distal radius can break, including:
- Extra-articular fractures do not affect the joint itself (“articular” means “joint.”)
- Intra-articular fractures affect the wrist joint.
- Comminuted fractures involve more than one break in the distal radius bone.
- Open fractures are severe and break through the skin.
The symptoms of a wrist fracture relate to the type and severity of the break. Mild breaks may result in bruising, swelling, and discomfort. It may be difficult to move the wrist. Some breaks lead to tingling or other changes in sensation in the hand or fingers.
Treatment for Wrist Fracture
Patients of our New Jersey offices can expect to receive a thorough examination process to help us determine the best approach for treating wrist fracture. One should not expect that an orthopedic surgeon will conclude that surgery is needed for every break. In many cases, a broken wrist can be treated with appropriate splinting.
When a broken wrist is treated nonsurgical, it may be necessary to realign the bone prior to splinting. This is usually done with a local anesthetic to ensure that the patient is not subjected to more pain as they receive care to correct the fracture. Once the bone is aligned and immobilized with a cast, healing occurs over several weeks. Usually, the wrist heals and can be used in approximately 6 weeks. We confirm this with x-rays before removing the cast.
Surgery is only needed when a wrist fracture is quite severe, such as multiple breaks or severe shifting that has caused misalignment in the joint space. Undergoing surgery to mend a severe wrist fracture is advantageous because it can help to decrease the risk of future problems, such as osteoarthritis in the joint.