A wrist fracture is a fracture of the wrist. It is usually caused by a fall and is one of the most common fractures. The treatment is similar to other fractures. Wrist fractures can also be prevented.
What is a broken wrist?
A wrist fracture is a fracture of the spoke (radius). It usually occurs when you try to catch yourself with your hand in a fall. Since this reflex is almost always present, such fractures are common.
In rare cases, the wrist fracture can also result from a fall on the bent hand. In this case one speaks of a flexion fracture. A wrist fracture can be treated by wearing a cast. It is also advisable to take medication because of the pain.
A wrist fracture is usually caused by a fall on the hand. This will break or sprain the joint. Older people and children are particularly affected because they fall more often. Children who fall while playing try to catch the fall with their hand, causing a fracture. In older people, reduced bone stability is also an important factor.
This can quickly lead to a fracture of the wrist in the event of a fall. Osteoporosis (bone loss), which occurs more frequently in old age, increases the risk of fracture. In addition, there is an increased risk in older people due to other complaints. Dizzy spells, old age and cardiac arrhythmias lead to falls. In connection with the reduced bone stability, serious fractures occur as a result.
The cause is always excessive pressure on the wrist, which leads to fracture. This is usually triggered by a fall, but a trapped arm, an unnatural posture during sports or the use of force can also lead to such a fracture. Various factors also increase the risk that the bone is not only sprained but broken.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A wrist fracture typically manifests itself as severe pain in the affected extremity. The pain usually occurs immediately after the injury and is stabbing or throbbing. Since the pain is particularly intense during movements, those affected usually automatically adopt a relieving posture.
The pain is accompanied by swelling and redness in the affected area. The joint can only be moved to a limited extent or not at all, depending on the location and severity of the fracture. A sure sign of a fracture is a visible misalignment of the wrist.
If the hand is bent outwards or backwards, or is at an unusual angle from the arm, a fracture can be assumed. A wrist fracture also manifests itself in the fact that there is an unusual grinding or other noise when the wrist is moved. Occasionally there is also a feeling of numbness or signs of paralysis.
If important vessels are injured, circulatory disorders and major swelling can also occur. The symptoms of a broken wrist increase in intensity until the fracture is treated. If no treatment is given, impotent pain and accompanying physical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting will quickly set in.
Diagnosis & History
A wrist fracture can be clearly diagnosed. The symptoms that occur are unambiguous and can be linked to a fracture by those affected themselves. On the one hand, painful swelling occurs in the wrist area and, on the other hand, there is a misalignment of the affected joint.
However, the second symptom does not always appear. The exact location of the break is crucial. These symptoms are accompanied by sensory disturbances in the hand or fingers. Skin and muscles can also be injured. If these symptoms are present, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
They can carry out a comprehensive medical examination to clarify the extent of the damage. A wrist fracture is often accompanied by nerve and vascular injuries. As part of the anamnesis, it is also clarified how the accident happened and how exactly the wrist was broken. This allows the doctor treating you to rule out certain types of fractures directly.
X-rays are taken to confirm the diagnosis. The wrist is recorded from above and from the side in order to have an optimal view of the affected area. Finally, it must be clarified whether the fracture is unstable or stable. The subsequent therapy is based on this.
The course of the fracture depends on the extent of the fracture. In children, the joints usually heal within a few weeks. The extent of the physiotherapeutic follow-up treatment is also decisive. A complicated fracture that involves damaged ligaments and nerves usually requires several months of treatment before it fully heals.
In most cases, a wrist fracture heals without complications. Problems can arise if the fracture is not treated or is treated inadequately. A delayed fracture can lead to permanent sensory disorders, chronic pain and malpositions. In half of all cases, another malposition can occur after a surgical intervention, which must be corrected in a further intervention.
Possible bone displacements can also lead to damage to the surrounding nerves, blood vessels and soft tissues. In the worst case, the so-called Sudeck dystrophy and the complete loss of function of the hand occur. Sudeck’s disease mainly affects older women, but patients with a previous bone disease are also at risk of Sudeck’s dystrophy.
In addition, ischemic contractures, compartment syndrome or fat embolism can occur, which are usually associated with further complications. False joint formation (pseudoarthrosis) in the wrist can also occur. As a result of a fracture, signs of wear can also occur or the joint stiffens completely. Finally, the prescribed painkillers can lead to side effects. Early and comprehensive treatment can usually prevent serious complications.
When should you go to the doctor?
In the event of a wrist fracture, a doctor should always be consulted. A person suffering from a broken wrist will be in excruciating pain so seeing a doctor should be immediate. If medical and drug treatment is not used, the fracture may not heal properly. In some cases, surgery may also be needed to fix the broken bones. Only through such a medical intervention can a full and rapid recovery take place.
Follow-up examinations are also of great importance in the later course of healing, so that possible complications can be recognized and treated at an early stage. If you see a doctor quickly after a broken wrist, the chances of a full recovery are very good.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of a wrist fracture is unproblematic. First, the bones are restored to their original shape, which requires either surgery or conservative (non-surgical) intervention. Non-surgical treatment is sufficient for a simple wrist fracture.
With the help of an X-ray fluoroscopy device, the wrist can be brought into the correct position. A plaster cast is then applied to protect the bones and aid healing. The therapy also includes various movement exercises of the fingers and elbows, with the help of which the sensory disturbances are eliminated.
Depending on how serious the wrist fracture is, additional measures may need to be taken to treat damaged nerves and ligaments.
Outlook & Forecast
A broken wrist has a good chance of healing if the fracture is stable. After a few weeks of rest and rest on the affected hand, most patients recover. Complete freedom from symptoms is achieved after a few months.
The older the patient is, the longer the healing path is normally. Early strain on the hand should be avoided in the event of a fracture. The physical activities should be built up slowly after the healing process is complete so that there are no long-term consequences.
Despite the good prospects, complications can arise. In addition to circulatory disorders, limitations in mobility and a permanent reduction in performance, the patient is threatened with a malposition of the wrist. This can occur with a complicated fracture or problems during the healing process. Timely medical care and immediate correction of the bone damage are necessary to prevent long-term damage if possible.
Some patients complain of chronic pain for years or suffer arthrosis as a long-term consequence. The prognosis worsens when bone or joint disease is already present. In the case of a repeated wrist fracture, the chances of recovery are also reduced. Full recovery is possible, but the risk of sequelae is significantly increased if the fracture occurs again. Usually the usual level of performance is no longer achieved in these cases.
The main way to prevent a broken wrist is to take protective measures in certain sports. It is therefore advisable to wear appropriate protective clothing for high-risk activities such as inline skating. It can also help to strengthen the bones and detect osteoporosis at an early stage. Older people in particular can minimize the risk of a wrist fracture by taking preventive measures and having dizzy spells or similar disorders treated.
A wrist fracture can occur in varying degrees of severity, so appropriate follow-up care may be urgently required. In any case, a fracture of the wrist should be treated medically or surgically. Only in this way can a quick and smooth healing take place.
If the affected person decides against such treatment, considerable complications can be expected. Complete recovery or healing is not possible without professional immobilisation of the entire wrist. It can lead to severe inflammation, which can even be life-threatening under certain circumstances.
After treatment or surgery, follow-up care is very important so that the fracture can heal in peace. The joint should therefore not be subjected to any stress. Equally important in this context is compliance with control visits. Such check-ups allow possible complications to be recognized early and eliminated accordingly.
You can do that yourself
If a wrist fracture is suspected, the joint must first be immobilized and cooled. If possible, the injured limbs are padded with suitable material and elevated until the emergency doctor arrives. Independent attempts at movement or adjustment should be avoided.
After the first aid, the responsible doctor will explain the necessary measures for a speedy recovery. Physiotherapy treatment is usually recommended, which can be supported by light everyday exercises. In the first few weeks, however, the wrist must be immobilized. After that, osteopathic therapy can be useful.
So-called therapeutic putty is ideal for everyday use. Aftercare also includes comprehensive wound care. Depending on how the wound is healing, the bandage should be changed two to a maximum of three times a week. If the skin begins to itch, lifting the cast slightly and blowing it out with a blow dryer on low may help.
The same applies here: discuss any measures with the responsible doctor beforehand. This also applies to the use of any natural remedies. Medicinal plants such as comfrey or arnica support wound healing and are particularly effective in the acute healing phase.