Wrist fracture: healing time, rehabilitation

Wrist fracture

Do you have a broken wrist ? First of all, you probably want to know how long it takes for a broken wrist to heal . But also, what you can do to maximize the chances of recovering quickly and well .

In this article, I answer all the questions people have after a wrist fracture, whatever its type. To answer this, I rely on:

When to drive after wrist fracture?

The content of this article in video format. However, I encourage you to rather consult the article which is more precise

What are the different types of wrist fracture?

We generally speak of a “wrist fracture” (breaking of the wrist in common parlance). This concerns fractures of one or more bones making up the wrist joint, therefore of the forearm and hand:

scaphoid fracture . It is part of the carpal bones, the 8 bones of the hand that partly make up the wrist. It is a frequent fracture of the wrist, which occurs especially in men around the age of 25 (fall from a motorcycle, bicycle, rollerblade, or even from a height);

radius or ulna fracture . These are the 2 bones of the forearm, which make up the joint of the wrist with those of the hand. People over the age of 65 are more likely to have distal radius fractures , due to osteoporosis. Especially women. It is often called post-glue fracture , it is the most common (80% of wrist fractures);

not moved . This is most often the case. There is often no need to operate, immobilization is enough. Recovery is faster ;

moved . This means that there is a gap of several millimeters between the 2 fractured bone fragments. An operation is often necessary . Recovery may take a little longer;

open . There is a wound, the bone is exposed to the air. These are more serious fractures requiring urgent care to avoid infection.

If 2 wrist bones are fractured (it doesn’t matter which ones), it is called a double wrist fracture . If the fracture line is not very marked, it is rather called a wrist crack (cracked wrist, crack) or a “  small fracture ”.

ℹ️It is very unlikely to miss a wrist fracture. Its symptoms are obvious:

More rarely, a stress fracture can occur. In this case, the symptoms are more discreet.

In children or adolescents, you may hear about a wrist growth fracture. This is due to the particular composition of the joints at this age. Children generally recover much faster, and without any sequelae, from a wrist fracture, whether or not it affects the growth plate.

The scaphoid, radius, ulna, and trapezius are bones in the wrist that are often prone to fracture . This article covers all wrist fractures.

We must already agree on what we put behind “healing time” . Is it a question of the bones consolidating, or are we talking about the disappearance of pain, or the resumption of previous activities?

What is the treatment for a wrist fracture?

Once the diagnosis is made, treatment can be recommended. It will generally consist of:

a splint . It’s the least restrictive. You can take it off to wash;

a cast , often made of resin. It can be a cuff: it goes from the middle of the hand to below the elbow, without blocking the thumb or blocking it. Sometimes, the plaster can go up until below the shoulder, to immobilize the wrist and the elbow;

do not put anything but tell the patient to limit the use of the wrist.

ℹ️In any case, an elbow-to-body splint or a sling may also be recommended to relieve your arm ( weight of the cast ) and avoid bumping yourself. Your physiotherapist can prescribe one for you, you will be reimbursed. In this case, make sure to put it correctly, as below:

Diagrams for correctly applying a splint in the event of a wrist fracture

You may need a splint of this type in addition to the wrist splint or cast, to relieve your arm. Be sure to put it on correctly to avoid neck pain.

elbow to body brace

Even in case of wrist surgery, immobilization via splint or cast may be necessary.

The wrist can be immobilized in a cast or a splint for 6 weeks to 3 months . An elbow splint to the body may also be necessary to relieve the whole arm, because of the weight of the cast.

The wrist operation

Depending on the type and location of the fracture, immobilization is not enough. You have to do surgery . This is often the case with a displaced wrist fracture . It also depends on your general condition: the risk-benefit balance of an operation is less good in a person in poor health.

What rehabilitation after a wrist fracture?

Physical therapy sessions are quite often prescribed after a wrist fracture . Sometimes the doctor recommends waiting until the splint or cast is removed, or even a few more weeks after the removal.

I’m not sure this is a good thing: some people didn’t remember the instructions given to them at the hospital or clinic . They don’t know, for example, whether or not they can use their hand, what movements to make to limit stiffness.

In people over the age of 65, I often notice a very strong stiffening of the shoulder after a wrist fracture, especially when wearing a cast. The shoulder is sometimes more painful than the wrist! Early mobilization of the shoulder would limit pain and stiffness . In addition, physiotherapists can assess the risk of falling , and take charge of a possible post-fall syndrome .

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