specializing in advanced surgical care of hand, wrist, and elbow injuries and conditions

Wrist Fracture

Slippery sidewalks and patches of ice are part of the winter landscape in northeastern Pennsylvania.  These wintery conditions can often lead to a falls and many unwelcomed injuries. The most common injury is a fracture of the distal radius bone also known as a wrist fracture.  When you break the radius bone about an inch from the wrist it is considered a distal radius fracture. The radius is one of the two long bones in the forearm (see photo). These injuries are more common in women over the age of 65 due to the higher incidence of osteoporosis.

Although not all symptoms of a wrist fracture are the same here are some common signs.

  • Pain and swelling in the wrist
  • Inability or difficulty using the hand or wrist
  • Deformed-looking wrist
  • Pain with finger movement
  • Numb or tingling fingers

The severity of the fracture varies. It can be a stable (non-displaced) in which the bones do not move out of place, or it may be displaced, which means the bones need to be put back in the right place.

The treatment for a distal radius fracture will vary depending on the severity and type of fracture. You may be immobilized in a splint or cast or you may require surgery to properly realign the bones.

If you suspect you have broken your wrist it will be helpful to support it with a splint, apply ice, and elevate your wrist. An evaluation by a hand surgeon is an important next step. The hand surgeon will often obtain an x-ray and determine if you need surgery to fix the fracture or if the treatment will be to place your wrist in a splint or cast. You may need to have the wrist placed in a better position; this is called “reducing” the fracture. You will be asked to follow-up with your hand surgeon. While you wrist is immobilized it is important that you continue to move your fingers so they do not get stiff.

Following fracture healing you may be referred to hand therapy in an effort to regain your range of motion and maximize your functional use.