A broken wrist describes a break (fracture) in one or more of the bones that make up the wrist joint. These bones include the ulna, radius and carpal bones. The ulna (inside bone) and radius (outside bone) are the two long bones of the forearm. The carpal bones are eight, tiny bones that make up the wrist.
It takes considerable force to brake a healthy bone. A broken wrist is typically the result of a fall or sports activity where large forces are at play. For example, a fall from a skateboard or palming someone incorrectly in a football match. The most common cause of a broken wrist is a fall onto an outstretched hand.
The same injuries that lead to a broken wrist also lead to wrist sprains. It is not uncommon to have both a wrist sprain and a fracture to one of the wrist bones.
Symptoms of a broken wrist will vary depending on the severity of the injury. In most cases swelling and pain is experienced. This pain is likely to become worse when moving the hand. Numbness and tingling may also be experienced in the fingers or hand. Bruising around the wrist is common. If the break is significant, boney deformity and bones protruding from the skin can be observed.
Here are a few examples of different fractures that can contribute to a broken wrist:
- Scaphoid fracture: A scaphoid fracture is a common fracture involving one of the small carpal bones in the wrist named the scaphoid bone.
- Colles fracture: This fracture is often the caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm. The radius bone in the forearm is broken. Elderly females who have osteoporosis are prone to this fracture.
- Hook of hamate fracture: This fracture occurs in the hamate bone, which is one of the small carpal bones on the outside of the wrist. This is a common fracture in cyclists.
If you have a broken or fractured wrist, treatment can involve:
- Immobilisation in a cast or splint for a period of time until the bone heals.
- Surgery to realign the bones and hold them together as they heal.
- Sports chiropractic or physiotherapy treatments after surgery to reduce inflammation and swelling.
- A sports chiropractor or physiotherapist will give you mobility and strengthening exercises to regain the function of your wrist and arm.
- Remember that it is important to complete your rehab program whether or not you have surgery, this will ensure your wrist function returns as close to normal as possible.
It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect a broken wrist so that it can be x-rayed and a formal diagnosis can be made.Please contact Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) with any questions.