Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky
Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky
975 Park Avenue New York, NY 10028

Broken Wrist Treatments

Introduction to Broken Wrists: Causes and Symptoms

A broken wrist, or wrist fracture, is a common injury that can occur due to various causes, such as falls, sports accidents, or direct trauma. It involves the breaking or cracking of the bones in the wrist.

Symptoms of a broken wrist typically include moderate to severe pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty in moving the wrist, and tenderness. Understanding the causes, diagnosis, and treatment options is crucial for effective management and recovery.

Anatomy of the Wrist: Understanding the Injury

To better comprehend the impact of a broken wrist, it’s essential to understand the wrist’s anatomy. The wrist is a complex joint comprising eight small bones called carpal bones, which connect the hand to the forearm.

Fractures can occur in any of these bones, and the specific location and severity of the fracture influence the treatment approach.

Diagnosis of a Broken Wrist: Imaging and Tests

If a broken wrist is suspected, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. An orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon will conduct a thorough examination, assessing the symptoms and performing imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the fracture.

Non-Surgical Treatments for a Broken Wrist

In many cases, non-surgical treatments can effectively manage and promote healing of broken wrists, especially for stable fractures. Unstable fractures are reduced, placing the bones in proper alignment with local anesthesia.

Immobilization: Splints and Casts

One of the primary treatment approaches for a broken wrist is immobilization. The wrist is immobilized using a splint or cast to keep the bones in proper alignment while they heal. The duration of immobilization depends on the type and severity of the fracture.

Pain Management: Medications and Natural Remedies

To alleviate pain and discomfort associated with a broken wrist, your doctor may recommend pain medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be effective, and natural remedies such as applying ice packs and elevation above the heart may provide additional relief.

Surgical Treatments for a Broken Wrist

In certain cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to ensure proper alignment and healing of a broken wrist, particularly for complex or unstable fractures.

Indications for Surgery

Surgery is typically recommended when the fracture is severe, displaced, involves the joint, or when non-surgical treatments fail to achieve proper alignment. The decision for surgery depends on various factors, including the specific bones affected, the degree of displacement, and the individual patient’s needs.

Different Surgical Procedures for Wrist Fractures

Several surgical procedures may be employed to treat broken wrists, depending on the nature and complexity of the fracture. Common surgical interventions include:

  • Arthroscopically Assisted Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): This procedure involves making an incision to realign the fractured bones and using screws, plates, or wires to stabilize them. Looking into the joint with a tiny telescope and instruments, a wrist surgeon is able to best align the bones. 
  • External Fixation: In this technique, metal pins or wires are inserted into the bones above and below the fracture site. These pins or wires are connected to an external frame outside the body, which provides stability and aids in proper healing and fracture support.
  • Bone Grafting: In cases where there is a significant bone loss or severe comminuted fractures, a bone graft may be necessary. This procedure involves taking bone tissue from another part of the body (autograft) or using donor bone (allograft) to fill in the gaps and promote bone healing.

Rehabilitation and Exercises for a Broken Wrist

After the initial healing phase, rehabilitation and exercises play a crucial role in restoring wrist function, strength, and mobility.

A hand therapist, called an occupational therapist, will work closely with the patient, developing a customized rehabilitation plan with the surgeon. This may include exercises to improve range of motion, strength, and flexibility of the wrist.

The therapist may also incorporate functional activities to enhance coordination and dexterity. It’s important to follow the therapist’s instructions and attend all scheduled rehabilitation sessions to achieve optimal recovery.

Tips for Speedy Recovery from a Wrist Fracture

To facilitate a speedy recovery and ensure optimal healing of a broken wrist, consider the following tips:

  • Adhere to the recommended treatment plan provided by your hand surgeon.
  • Keep the wrist immobilized as instructed and avoid activities that may cause further injury.
  • Take prescribed pain medications and use elevation as directed to manage discomfort.
  • Attend all scheduled rehabilitation sessions and diligently perform prescribed exercises.
  • Maintain good overall health by following a balanced diet, getting adequate rest, and avoiding activities that put unnecessary strain on the wrist.

Reducing the Risk of Wrist Injuries

While it may not be possible to prevent all wrist injuries, you can take precautions to reduce the risk:

  1. Use protective gear: Wear wrist guards or braces during activities that pose a higher risk of wrist injury, such as sports or manual labor.
  2. Practice proper technique: When participating in sports or performing physical tasks, ensure you are using the correct technique to minimize the strain on your wrists.
  3. Maintain a safe environment: Keep walkways clear of obstacles, maintain proper lighting, and be cautious of slippery surfaces to avoid falls that could lead to wrist injuries.
  4. Take breaks and rest: If you engage in repetitive activities that strain the wrists, take regular breaks to give your wrists a chance to rest and recover.
  5. Strengthen your wrists: Perform exercises that specifically target wrist and forearm strength and flexibility to help prevent injuries.

Do You Fear You’ve Broken Your Wrist?

Understanding the causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for broken wrists is crucial for effective management and recovery. Non-surgical treatments, such as immobilization and pain management, are often effective, while surgical interventions may be necessary for more complex or unstable fractures. 

Rehabilitation and exercises play a vital role in restoring wrist function and strength. By taking preventive measures and practicing wrist safety techniques, you can reduce the risk of wrist injuries and maintain optimal wrist health. 

If you suspect a broken wrist, seek prompt medical attention and consult one of the wrist surgeons at HandSport Surgery Institute for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.