What To Do After A Wrist Fracture

What To Do After A Wrist Fracture

So you fell on your hand and it swelled up like a balloon. You find out you broke your wrist, experienced a wrist fracture, a FOOSH injury – you name it – it sucks no matter what. Next thing you know you’re in a cast for 4-6 weeks. Time goes by, you see the doctor and he says the bone is healed, you’re good to go! You get the cast removed, but you realize your wrist and hand look shriveled up and tiny compared to the other side. Even worse, it hurts to move it, your hand feels weak, you can’t even put weight through it, now what?! In this article, we will detail exactly what a wrist fracture is and some exercises to jump-start your rehab when you get your cast off.

What Is A Wrist Fracture?

A broken wrist, also referred to as a wrist fracture, is typically a break in the distal radius bone, which is one of the bones in your forearm on the thumb side. Wrist fractures typically occur from falling due to the natural reaction to try and break the fall by reaching out and landing on the hand. As you can see above, the more common wrist fracture to occur from a FOOSH (Falling Onto An Outstretched Hand) injury is termed a Colle’s Fracture. You can learn more about other types of FOOSH injuries here.

How Do I know If I Broke My Wrist? Should I Get An X-Ray?

Maybe you stumbled upon this article because you just hurt your wrist and you’re trying to decide if you should seek medical attention or not. Well, you’ve come to the right place! This is a really good question, so good that researchers decided to figure out who should and who shouldn’t get x-rays to save the health care system some money. This is considering the fact most people who present to the emergency room with wrist pain are referred to imaging, however only 39% of people that experience wrist trauma will have sustained a fracture (1). The Amsterdam Wrist Rules concluded the following information…

The likelihood of having ANY type of wrist fracture is greater if…

  • Age (every 10 years of life increases the likelihood)
  • Male
  • Swollen wrist
  • Visible deformation
  • Distal radius tender to palpation
  • Pain with radial deviation
  • It DOES NOT hurt to compress/jam the thumb

The likelihood of having a DISTAL RADIUS fracture is greater if…

  • Age (every 10 years of life increases the likelihood)
  • Swollen wrist
  • Visible deformation
  • Distal radius tender to palpation
  • Pain with wrist flexion
  • Pain with forearm supination
  • NO PAIN with ulnar deviation

 

The bullet points inย bold and italicย held the most weight in regards to the likelihood of a wrist fracture. Thus if you have a very swollen wrist, a visible deformity of your wrist, and it is tender to touch on the inside of your wrist at the distal radius bone, it is likely in your best interest to seek medical attention and get x-rays to confirm if you have a wrist fracture or not.

So I Broke My Wrist, Now What?

It sucks to be stuck in a cast for 4-6 weeks. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be completely sedentary. Now we aren’t saying you have to lift weights like Terrelle Pryor did when he had a cast on, but don’t sit on your butt on the couch for a month! Technically you can still do cardio, lower body exercises, and even train your other arm. The common concerns are that you will be lop-sided and create asymmetries/imbalances if you only train your other arm. That is false! If anything training your other arm can lead to something called the crossover effect, helping to maintain size and strength of your other arm!

So I Got My Cast Off, Now What?

I remember in college I broke my ring finger playing flag football. I had a cast on for 6 weeks, it was the most glorious day getting that thing off. However, when the cast finally came off I was mortified by how my hand, wrist, and forearm looked. Even worse, I tried to move my hand and fingers and nothing was happening! It was SO STIFF. However, I knew what I had to do and that was simply getting my wrist and fingers moving again and using my hand as much as I could!

Grip And Range Of Motion Exercises

With your average non-complicated wrist fracture, gentle introduction to gripping and range of motion exercises in every direction is exactly what your wrist wants and needs. Below you will find multiple videos to help get your wrist and hand moving again!

Gripping With Tennis Ball

Tendon Glides

Wrist And Finger Circles

Hand Circles With Hands Together

Fingertip To Thumb Taps

Thumb To Fingertip Taps

Finger Spreads

Thumb Circles

Forearm Pronation And Supination

 

But My Wrist Still Hurts?

Wrist fractures are unfortunately a slow recovery. It can take a really long time, even up to a year, for your wrist to feel back to 100% normal like it did prior to the injury. This is especially true in regards to grip strength, being able to support all of your weight through that wrist and hand, and doing everyday activities using your wrist and hand. Bottom line is you have to be patient, remind yourself of how far you’ve come compared to day 1 of having your cast on. If you continue to have significant limitations and pain with your wrist, it may be in your best interest to seek help from a physical therapist or certified wrist and hand specialist.

 

Want More Wrist & Hand Videos?

prehabX

Be sure to check out our exercise library HERE to gain access to more videos like this!

 

 

References

  1. Walenkamp MM, Bentohami A, Slaar A, Beerekamp MS, Maas M, Jager LC, et al. The Amsterdam wrist rules: the multicenter prospective derivation and external validation of a clinical decision rule for the use of radiography in acute wrist trauma. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2015;16:389โ€“97.

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