Wrist Fractures: Signs and symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

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The doctor checks if the patient have Wrist Fractures

1Overview

The wrist consists of small joints that connect the hand to the rest of the body and for the movement of the hand.

The movement of the upper limb or arms is important for our ancestors and for the people of today. The wrist has played a crucial role in the functioning of the arms, primarily the distal part, the hand. The ability to move the hand in space is vital for our advanced and precise hand function. Without the wrist, it’s impossible to move the fingers and the hand.

A broken wrist or fracture wrist happens when there is a break or crack in one or more of the bones in the area. The most common cause of a wrist fracture is falling and trying to catch oneself, landing hard on an outstretched hand.

A wrist fracture is a medical term for a broken wrist. In the wrist, there are eight small bones that connect with the two long forearm bones dubbed as the ulna and radius. The most common wrist fracture is common in any of these bones, but the common type is the distal radius fracture.

There are also levels of severity when it comes to a fractured wrist. Some wrist fractures are stable or non-displaced breaks. This can be treated by a cast or splint. On the other hand, some fractures are unstable, wherein the bones need to be put back in position, and a cast is placed.

Some fractures, however, are severe than others. When the fracture is severe, surgery might be needed to restore and hold the bone alignment.

2Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a fracture in the bones in the wrist usually include tenderness, pain, and swelling. Wrist fractures may lead to the inability to grip and hold objects.

A Wrist Fractures or broken hand might cause these signs and symptoms:

  • Swelling or inflammation
  • Tenderness
  • Severe pain that might worsen when squeezing and gripping the hand
  • Bruising
  • Obvious deformities like a crooked finger or a bent wrist
  • Stiffness or the inability to move the fingers or the thumb
  • Hand or finger numbness

3Causes

A direct blow to the wrist or a crushing injury to the hands can break the bones in the wrist joint. The most common causes include:

Falls – Falling or slipping to the ground and onto an outstretched hand is one of the most common causes of a Wrist Fractures. People, when they fall, would automatically put the arm and hand to the ground to protect the body from the fall.

Vehicular accident – Another common cause of wrist fracture is a vehicular accident. Vehicle crashes can cause the wrist or hand bones to break, sometimes even into small pieces.

Sports injuries – Many wrist injuries and fractures happen during contact sports and other sports activities.

4Risk Factors

It can be felt by all, men or women, young and old. Risk factors of having a wrist fracture may vary from the cause.

Sports and work-related

The people who love sports and works on a repetitive schedule and workouts can damage the joints including the wrists. In some cases, people who are playing sports are at a higher risk of having wrist fracture.

Elderly patients

The degenerative disease can be a risk of having the pain in the joints of the body. They can have a brittle bone in the wrist, leading to a greater risk of having a fracture.

5Complications

A broken or Wrist Fractures may have complications, which are rare. However, these include:

OsteoarthritisFractures that extend into the joint can cause arthritis in the future. If the wrist or hand starts to hurt or become inflamed years after the fracture, seek medical attention.

Stiffness, disability and aching – Stiffness and pain in the affected area usually go away after the cast is removed. However, in some people, the stiffness and pain may persist long after. You might be recommended to undergo physical therapy.

Blood vessel or nerve damage – When there are a Wrist Fractures due to trauma, it can affect the surrounding nerves and blood vessels. If you feel numbness in the hand long after the cast has been removed, you may need to see a doctor.

6Diagnosis

An X-ray is the best way to diagnose a wrist fracture. Also, a combination of imaging tests like an X-ray and physical assessment is important. If you have sustained fall and is experiencing the symptoms stated above, you may need to visit an urgent care or the emergency room.

It is important to perform an X-ray scan to show the various angles and assess if there are broken bones in the area. If the X-ray cannot provide the needed information and images, the doctor can request for computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

It is critical to know the severity of the condition and the extent of the injury so proper treatment will be provided. When there is inappropriate treatment, it can lead to the loss and damage of the wrist.

7Treatment

During a fall, it is important not to touch the broken bone. Visit a doctor immediately.
If the bone ends of the bones are not aligned, or they were displaced, the doctor needs to manipulate the pieces back into their original position in a procedure called reduction. The doctor may put a cast to keep the bones in place and wait for the body’s natural healing process to fuse the bones back together.

Here are the common treatments for a Wrist Fractures:

Immobilization – Restricting the movement of the fractured bone is important to promote faster and proper healing. The doctor may apply a splint or a cast. You may need to put the hand above the heart level to reduce pain and inflammation.

Drugs – Medicines are prescribed the reduce pain and swelling. The doctor may recommend you to take over-the-counter pain medicines. Usually, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed because they target both inflammation and pain.

When there is an open fracture, the doctor may recommend taking antibiotics to prevent infection in the area and to prevent the bacteria from entering the bone.

Physical therapy – After the initial treatment of immobilization, after the cast is removed, the doctor may prescribe having physical therapy sessions. Physical therapy helps reduce pain, stiffness and restore the movement of the wrist and hand.

Surgery –  If placing a cast is not an option, the doctor might recommend having pins, plates, and rods to hold the bones together to promote healing. Implants are recommended if you have an open fracture, loose bone fragments, unstable or displaced fracture, damage to the ligaments in the area, damage to the blood vessels and nerves, and some fractures that extend into a joint.

Home treatments

Limit the movement of the wrists by using a splint. The immobilization of the wrist can minimize the pain when moving the hand.

  • To minimize and reduce the inflammation and swelling of the wrist, the cold and warm compress can be used together with other methods of treatment to have better results.
  • Have a proper exercise and appropriate stretches involving the wrist to minimize the pain, discomfort and to reduce the pressure on the wrist. A physical therapist can help you during the exercise to minimize or avoid injury to the wrist.
  • Surgery can help restore bone fractures and tears in the muscles and tendons.

8Prevention

To prevent wrist pain and wrist fracture, the person should have a proper exercise on the wrist and also make sure to have an appropriate rest to lessen the workload on the wrist. Others preventive measures can also be done by following these tips.

  • Precautionary measures to avoid accidents. Remove things from furniture that is blocking the way, use shoes that are not slippery to avoid falls and use side rails to elder clients to prevent unforeseen accidents.
  • When working in an environment that uses computers, make sure to have a keyboard that is wrist friendly and practice the wrist exercises to prevent pain on the wrist.
  • Proper body alignment can also help prevent injuries to the body
  • Athletes can use support for the wrists like wrist guards and also protective gear for the body.
  • Drink milk and eat foods rich in calcium like yogurt, broccoli, and cheese to prevent the onset of the degenerative bone diseases.

Build bone strength – This can be done by eating a nutritious diet rich in vitamin D, phosphorus, and calcium. You can also build bone strength by doing weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking and weightlifting. For those who are smoking, stop smoking.

Prevent falls – Since falls are the major causes of a fractured wrist, it is important to prevent injuries by wearing comfortable and sensible shoes, lighting up the living space, removing things you can trip over like rags and carpets, and having the vision checked and corrected. Also, for houses with seniors, install grab bars in the bathroom and handrails in the stairway. Lastly, use non-slippery tiles or floors.

Use wrist guards in the following sports:

  • Snowboarding
  • Rugby
  • In-line skating
  • Football
  • Tennis
  • Basketball
  • Contact sports