Wrist fractures are prevalent injuries. Whenever you are about to fall, it’s natural that you’ll stretch out your arm to prevent the fall and avoid sustaining severe injuries. The force exerted on your wrist whenever you land on the outstretched arm during a fall is many times the body’s weight. Conditions that create a high likelihood of a fall occurring, such as uneven, wet, or icy surfaces, increase the risk of sustaining a wrist fracture.
You need a pain-free, strong wrist for day-to-day activities such as carrying, gripping, and lifting. The wrist also plays a critical role in positioning your hand in space. Therefore, an injury around this region could be debilitating and must be carefully treated to restore function. Even though it’s a prevalent injury, wrist fractures are of different types, and thus there exist various treatment options that there are still uncertainties about how to treat each type of wrist fracture.
However, physical therapy has proven to be highly effective in treating and rehabilitating most types of wrist fractures. If you’ve sustained a wrist fracture, you should consider consulting a professional physiotherapist to see if they can help you with the rehabilitation process. Suarez Physical Therapy has expert physiotherapists who specialize in musculoskeletal rehabilitation. We’ll focus on rebuilding your wrist’s strength, increasing your range of motion, and enhancing your general wrist function. Based on how severe your wrist fracture is, we may be able to help you through it within six to eight weeks. If you wish to undergo your therapy in Las Vegas, Nevada, please don’t hesitate to call us for a consultation.
Defining Wrist Fracture
If you have a wrist fracture, it means you have a break/crack in one or more of your wrist bones. The wrist comprises eight small bones known as carpal bones, plus two forearm bones known as the ulna and the radius. You’ll be diagnosed with a wrist fracture if any of these bones cracks or break. The radius is the most commonly fractured bone. The radius is the forearm bone closest to your thumb, and this kind of fracture is medically referred to as a distal radial fracture.
As we mentioned above, the most prevalent wrist injuries occur when people try supporting themselves when they fall and land hard on an outstretched hand. However, you’re also highly likely to fracture your wrist if you engage in sports such as snowboarding or skating or suffer from osteoporosis (a condition whereby bones become more fragile and thinner). Vehicle accidents can also lead to the fracturing of the wrist bones.
You should treat a fractured wrist as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the bones may fail to heal in correct alignment, affecting your ability to do day-to-day activities like buttoning up a shirt or even writing. Early treatment also helps minimize stiffness and pain. A fractured wrist is immobilized for a given period while the healing process takes place.
Types of Wrist Fractures
There are different common types of wrist fractures, including:
- Multiple breaks— this is the most severe form of fracture. It occurs when numerous bones break or there are several breaks of one bone that surgery is necessary.
- A fragment shift— this fracture occurs when a bone fragment moves from its usual position.
- A non-displaced fracture — this fracture occurs when the bone breaks but remains in its normal position.
Risk Factors for Wrist Fracture
Suffering from osteoporosis and engaging in given sports activities could increase the chances of fracturing a wrist.
Sports Activities: contact activities and sports with a high risk of falling increase the risk of fracturing your wrist. These sports include inline skating, jumping on a trampoline, snowboarding, skiing, hockey, horseback riding, rugby, and soccer or football, played particularly on artificial turf.
Signs that Your Wrist May be Fractured
Experiencing the following symptoms may indicate you have a fractured wrist:
- Obvious deformity like a bent wrist
- Tenderness around the wrist
- Swelling of the hand and wrist — the swelling usually happens on the hand or wrist’s upper surface.
- Difficulty and severe pain (that may worsen) when squeezing, gripping, or moving your wrist, hand, or fingers
- Pain around the fractured area, which may be any area of the affected wrist, based on what bone is fractured. The pain may spread to your fingers and
When to See a Physician
If you believe you may have fractured your wrist, see a physician immediately, particularly if you experience swelling, difficulty moving your wrist/fingers, or numbness. A diagnosis or treatment delay could result in poor healing, decreased grip, and reduced range of motion.
Diagnosis of Wrist Fracture
Generally, diagnosing a fractured wrist involves conducting x-rays and a physical examination of the affected hand. If you fall and start experiencing the symptoms listed above, you should visit your doctor, an ER, or an emergency care center to undergo an x-ray exam.
If a physiotherapist suspects you’ve fractured your wrist, they may conduct an x-ray then recommend you to the right doctor. Your physiotherapist can check to see if other muscles and joints have also been damaged and ensure that the blood vessels and nerves in your hand, forearm, and wrist haven’t been impacted by the fractured bone.
At times, other imaging exams may be required to provide your doctor with more detail. These include:
- CT scan— a CT scan can show wrist fractures that an x-ray missed. Injuries to blood vessels and soft tissues can be discovered on a CT scan. This technology takes a series of x-ray images from various angles then combines them to depict cross-sectional slices of the internal structure of your body.
- MRI— an MRI uses strong magnetic and radio waves to generate comprehensive images of soft tissues and bones. It is much more sensitive compared to an x-ray and can disclose tiny ligament injuries and fractures.
In many cases, people who have sustained fractures visit an orthopedist (a doctor specializing in managing joints and bones). Based on what kind of fracture it is, the doctor may prescribe a sling or cast to immobilize the area affected for a given period until the fracture heals. The healing period varies based on the kind of fracture and the patient undergoing treatment and could range anywhere from four to ten weeks. And if your fracture is serious, you may need to undergo surgery. The recovery period may be lengthier after surgery based on how severe the injury is.
How Physiotherapy Can Help
Your physiotherapist can work closely with you after fracturing your wrist and help you restore the usual wrist function, strength, and motion. They’ll also provide training and education that’ll help you avoid future fractures.
When the Wrist Is Placed In a Sling or Cast
While the healing process of your bone takes place, your doctor will place your arm in a sling or cast to immobilize it and enhance healing. During this period, it’s critical to ensure the arm doesn’t become too swollen, weak, or stiff. Based on the type and amount of activities permitted for the kind of fracture you have, your physiotherapist will recommend gentle exercises that’ll help keep your fingers, elbow, and shoulder moving while you’re in the sling or cast.
Many people with a fractured wrist will slowly resume exercising the legs and the other arm so the body does not become unfit while the wrist fracture heals. Your physiotherapist can assist you in adapting your exercising program to preserve your overall fitness and strength without disrupting the healing process.
When the Sling or Cast Is Removed
Once your doctor removes your sling or cast, your arm is most likely to be weak and your wrist stiff. Your physiotherapist will examine the wrist and choose treatments to enhance its function and restore strength to your arm and hand.
Your rehabilitation may include treatment to:
Prevent long-term or permanent disability— everything your physiotherapist recommends for you help prevent long-term or permanent disability by:
- Recommending protective pieces of equipment like wrist guards to use when participating in sports
- Guiding you so you can return to sporting and other physical activities safely. Returning too early after suffering a wrist fracture might increase the possibility of suffering another fracture.
- Examining the fracture to ensure you can safely resume your work and home activities
- Restoring full strength and movement safely while healing takes place
- Returning the arm to a strong level of fitness
Resume your day-to-day activities— your physiotherapist may help you stay independent by training you on how to perform your everyday activities such as dressing and cooking even while still wearing a sling or cast. When you’re capable of moving your arm freely without feeling pain, your physiotherapist may start adding activities you were performing before being injured, like utilizing your arm for housekeeping, grooming, and dressing. Your physiotherapist will design you a personalized program depending on your general health, degree of physical activity, and the examination results of your wrist.
Increase your capability to move and strength— usually, physiotherapists recommend several forms of exercise when a patient is recovering from a fractured wrist. At first, your physiotherapist may help you start to move your elbow gently using passive range-of-motion exercises. As your arm strengthens, you could exercise it on your own without weights (active range-of-motion exercises). After the bone heals properly, you can start performing resistance exercises utilizing elastic bands or weights. Apart from prescribing strengthening and range-of-motion exercises, your physiotherapist may help you retrain your muscles to react faster when you have to prevent yourself from falling.
Minimize pain— your physiotherapist may use electrical stimulation or cold or warm therapeutic treatments to control swelling and pain in your arm, hand, or wrist.
Relieve stiffness— the physical therapist might use manual therapy (hands-on techniques) to make your muscles and joints move freely with no or less pain.
Prepare for highly demanding activities— based on your job requirements or the kind of sports activities you participate in; you may need extra physical therapy individualized to address specific demands. Thus, your physiotherapist will create a special program to meet your unique goals and needs.
Remember that all physiotherapists have the educational background and experience to handle different injuries and conditions. So when looking for a therapist to address your wrist fracture, consider:
- A physio experienced in addressing orthopedic-related issues— some physiotherapists practice orthopedic focus, whereas others specialize in upper-body
- A physiotherapist who is a board-certified clinical specialist or one who completed a fellowship or residency in orthopedic physical This physio has the experience, skills, and advanced knowledge that might apply to your condition.
Complications of Fractured Wrist
Complications are conditions or events that make the healing process of a wrist fracture more complex. These complications are rare, but when they occur, they may include:
Blood Vessel or Nerve damage
When your wrist suffers a trauma, the adjacent blood vessels and nerves may be compressed to the point that their function is impacted. When this happens, the nerves or vessels may have to be decompressed. Recovery after nerve and vessel decompression surgery is usually successful. But you shouldn’t delay treating damaged nerves. Seek immediate medical care if you experience circulation problems or numbness in your hand.
Another way your nerves or blood vessels could be damaged is the devices used in treating the fracture. The pins the doctor inserts through your skin may penetrate or come closer to the nerves passing over the affected area. The radial nerve is susceptible to this kind of injury, causing pain that resembles an electric shock and might also lead to numbness. However, the pain and numbness usually disappear when the pins are removed. Nerve damage may also lead to a tender, sensitive scar.
If a fracture extends to a joint, it could cause arthritis some years later. If your wrist begins to swell or hurt long after the fracture, see your physician for an examination.
Ongoing Disability, Aching, or Stiffness
Aching, pain, or stiffness in the fractured area generally disappears with time after you have your cast removed or surgery. Yet, some patients suffer permanent pain or stiffness. Be patient with your recovery and consult your physician about exercises that may help or referral to occupational or physical therapy.
By malunion, it means the fracture is healed but isn’t in the proper anatomical position. We have three types of malunions of radius fractures that are the reason for concern— where the radius shortens, where the joint surface tilts, and where the joint surface of the radius experiences irregularities. A step or gap in the joint surface that’s more than one millimeter is a reason for concern since it increases the risk of joint arthritis.
Distal radius fractures cause forearm muscle damage and even bleeding in the muscle compartments. This could cause increased pressure in the muscle compartments that could further be increased by casts and bandages. In case the pressure becomes too high, the blood supply in the muscles will be impaired, leading to further damage. The intra-compartment pressure will also increase even further.
Compartment syndrome symptoms include persistently increasing pain worsened by passive or active finger movements. Therefore, doctors encourage patients with fractured wrists to move their fingers soon enough to detect any unjustifiable pain. If it’s only moderately uncomfortable, that’s proof of compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome can worsen and cause the death of the muscles with long-term disability.
If your skin becomes wounded, either accidentally (resulting in open fracture) or through surgery, there is a chance bacteria can infect the wound. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics regularly to minimize the possibility of this happening.
Signs that you have an infection are increased redness and wound swelling, the likelihood of pus oozing from the wound, and increased tenderness. It’s usually expected to experience a mild fever after surgery. However, if you have an infection, the fever tends to increase and lasts much longer.
Preventing Wrist Fracture
You can’t prevent the unpredictable events that frequently cause a fractured wrist. However, the following tips may offer protection to a given extent:
Use Protective Gear for Sports Activities
Wear wrist guards if you engage in high-risk sports activities like football, rugby, snowboarding, or inline skating
Fractured wrists mostly occur when people fall forward onto an outstretched hand. To evade this prevalent injury, you should:
- If possible, avoid slippery surfaces like ice- or snow-covered walkways
- Install handrails on your stairways
- Install grab bars in your bathroom
- Have a doctor examine your vision, and if necessary, correct it
- Illuminate your living area
- Remove objects you can stumble over in your home; for example, throw rugs
- Put on sensible shoes
Building Bone Strength
For you to have strong bones, you should:
- Stop smoking if you are a smoker
- Do lots of weight-bearing exercises, like brisk walking, high-impact aerobics, or hiking.
- Eat nutritiously. Your meals should contain adequate vitamin D and calcium
Find Expert Wrist Fracture Physical Therapy Services Near Me
If you need Physiotherapy for a fractured wrist in Las Vegas, Nevada, Suarez Physical Therapy can help. Not only do we boast top-notch physical therapists in Nevada, but we also deliver excellent care to all our patients. If you fractured your wrist in an auto accident, we will keep you up to date with your insurance policy and how much your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance will cover as far as your physio treatment is concerned. We also understand how vital convenience is. You should be able to come for treatment and go easily. For this reason, we are strategically located for quick accessibility. Contact us now at 702-368-6778 to set up your initial appointment and start the journey of restoring your wrist’s functionality.