Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons

Wrist Breaks and Wrist Fractures

Time to Seek a Medical Professional

Wrist fractures are important to treat as soon as possible and are a risk in many sports. There are several types of fractures someone can experience in their wrist, all requiring medical attention. Without appropriate treatment for a wrist break, the injury can heal incorrectly and affect everyday activities from writing to buttoning a shirt.

Close-up of man doctor of checking splint the arm of female patient hand due to with her arm broken for better healing with a smile sit in a wheelchair In the room hospital background.
Close up young woman wrist pain, health care concept

What are Wrist Fractures?

Wrist fractures are broken wrists, meaning a break in any of the eight small bones that connect the two long forearm bones, called the radius and ulna, and include a break in these forearm bones. There are several types of wrist fractures one can have:

  • Non-displaced breaks: the bones in the wrist haven’t moved out of place.
  • Displaced breaks: the bones need to be reset or put back into place, but can be a stable enough break to treat with a cast or splint.
  • Unstable fractures: the bones and pieces can shit into poor positions before they fully heal, affecting the movements and looks of the break.
  • Comminuted fractures: bones that have shattered into many pieces
  • Open fracture: the broken bone is forced through the skin, and must be treated for a potential infection in the bone.

Symptoms and Causes of a Broken Wrist

The causes of a broken wrist are many, though there are higher-risk activities where a wrist fracture is more likely:

  • Sports injuries: Many fractures occur during contact sports or sports where falling with an outstretched hand, such as snowboarding or skating, are more common.
  • Car accidents: automobile crashes can cause wrist bones to break, sometimes shatter.
  • Falls: outstretched hands are a common cause of wrist breaks.

Symptoms of a broken wrist can vary, depending on the severity of the break, but typically include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Severe pain in the wrist that likely worsens when gripping, squeezing, or moving your hand.
  • An obvious deformity with the wrist, such as it being bent.
Close-up of a young woman's hand in plaster.

Complications of Broken Wrists

Complications from wrist fractures are rare but without proper treatment from an orthopedic physician or medical professional, become more likely:

  • Osteoarthritis: fractures that extend into a joint can cause arthritis later in life. If the wrist is hurting or swelling long after the fracture happened, schedule an evaluation with your doctor.
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage: a fracture can injure the nerves and blood vessels within and surrounding the wrist. If there are numbness or circulation issues, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Aching, ongoing stiffness, or disability: after the cast is removed, soreness and stiffness are common, but if the stiffness or pain lasts longer than told, discuss it with your doctor. Some people have permanent stiffness or pain after having a broken wrist and exercises or physical therapy can help lower or eliminate it.

Treating a Fracture

The approach to treatment for a broken wrist depends on a few factors, such as:

  • The type of fracture: displaced, unstable, or open
  • Whether the fracture occurred in the dominant hand or not
  • The patient’s age, job, hobbies, and activity level
  • Overall general health
  • Whether other injuries are present

For a broken wrist, there are a few treatment options that your orthopedic physician may recommend:

  • A padded splint, is a first treatment to realign the bones and support the wrist with relief.
  • For a stable fracture, a cast may be recommended after setting the bone.
  • For an unstable or shattered fracture, surgery is likely to reset the bone. The surgery includes pins, screws, plates, rods, or an external fixation to secure the bones.
  • If the fracture was severely shattered or crushed, there may be a gap in the bone once it has been realigned, this will require a bone graft to be added to help the bone to heal.

Make an Appointment with our Wrist Specialists

We at Proliance Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons strive to help our patients achieve a return to normal activity through compassionate and exceptional care using evidence-based medicine in a patient-friendly environment. We are committed to bringing you a high standard of care that is patient-focused, with the goal of improving your quality of life.