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Ouch - I've Broken My Wrist


1st November 2018
By Alanna Jefferson

The most common break at the wrist is the distal radius. 

Distal radius fractures are managed differently depending on their severity:

  • If they are un-displaced, i.e. the bone hasn’t moved position, they can be managed in a cast or customised orthosis.
  • A cast is normally made from fibreglass and put on by GP’s, therapists or your local emergency department.  An orthosis is a customised moulded brace, often made out of a material called thermoplastic. It is often lightweight and removable.
  • If they are displaced i.e. they aren’t in alignment, they are managed in either a cast or with surgery depending on the severity.
  • Some distal radius fractures required surgery to align the bone and are stabilised with either a plate and screws, k-wires or cast. Your treating doctor (orthopaedic surgeon or hand surgeon) will advise you.

 

Movement

The wrist moves in 6 major directions.  Wrist forwards and backwards, side to side and palms up and palms down.

After a wrist fracture, making a FIST and fully straightening fingers is crucial for a good recovery.  Your cast or customised orthosis should not prevent you from getting your finger tips to touch your palm or cast. You should also be able to touch your thumb to your index finger tip. See your therapist or treating doctor if your cast or customised orthosis is limiting you.

This is the next most important movement after making a fist for getting back to daily activities is PALMS UP and PALMS DOWN. Trying gently to rotate your arm between palms up/palms down. Your cast/orthosis will limit some of this movement. Always make sure you check with your hand therapist/physician first before commencing motion as certain movements are not always permissed.

Recovery

Most adults generally need to protect their fracture for 6 weeks.

Often after breaking your wrist, your fingers will swell up or be very bruised.  Elevating your arm above your heart, massaging your fingers and gently moving them will ease the tightness.

After removal of cast, your wrist will feel very stiff. It may take several weeks for you to get some near normal movement.  It may be at least 12 weeks before you feel comfortable to weight bear on your wrist fully.

Lifting/carrying weights or loads can be advised by your hand therapist/treating doctor.

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