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!

Elbow, Wrist, & Hand [P]Rehab Program

Elbow, wrist, & hand pain often times get neglected until itโ€™s too late, turning a minor fixable ache into a potential chronic pain and debilitating issue. Thisย programย is an 8-week program designed to minimize pain and optimize your elbow, wrist, and hand health. We make it easy and teach you how to self [P]Rehab this area and keep it healthy for anything life throws at you through detailed exercise programming and our signature resource videos.

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.

7 Comments
  • Annette DiGiamberardino
    Posted at 07:50h, 18 July Reply

    Thank you for the great exercise videos- they make it so easy to follow. I have had my cast off for 2 weeks ( distal radius fracture extra-articular clean break, closed reduction) now and am trying to not be discouraged. I try to push through the uncomfortable (twisting my arm – palm up and palm down is the hardest motion for me). My question is , how do you know that you are not hurting it more? Could I reinjure my wrist, cause more harm than good if I push too hard? I have a lot of swelling in my hand and wrist the day after PT, or vigorous exercise. Thanks again for providing these great how-to videos.

    • Sherif Elnagger
      Posted at 09:35h, 22 July Reply

      You are very welcome! Great question regarding the hurting it more. Typically, you will want to keep your discomfort at a minimal threshold (for example no greater than 3/10 pain on a pain scale). If you notice that your pain starts to increase more than that number and/or you discomfort still lingers after you finish exercise even into the next day, maybe you either did too much that day or you need to modify some ways you are doing certain exercises. Generally, it is ok to move and exercise through some discomfort, as tissues do need to be loaded appropriately to assist with the healing process! As long as there is that minimal, tolerable discomfort, and your discomfort does not become more moderate to severe nor linger after you finish exercise, then you know that you are at the right dosage! Best of luck :).

    • Sherif Elnagger
      Posted at 05:41h, 02 August Reply

      Hello! Thank you for your question. We are glad to hear you are finding our videos beneficial! Thank you for your support. Unfortunately, we are not able to respond to specific medical questions on this platform due to legality. It would be encouraged to continue seeking the advice from your physical therapist and ask these questions as he/she would be able to guide you regarding how you should feel during and after exercise! Best of luck to you and thank you again!

  • Sarah
    Posted at 09:32h, 24 July Reply

    Thank you for these exercises! I just got my cast off – full fracture of the radius and small fracture of the ulna. 5.5 weeks with the cast. With regard to lifting weights, how much weight can I try to lift with my hand? I don’t want to stress it too much…do I go by pain and if it feels okay then I am good to go? I just want to get back to deadlifts! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sherif Elnagger
      Posted at 05:39h, 02 August Reply

      Hello! Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we are not able to respond to specific medical questions on this platform due to legality. If you would want to ensure you are exercising safely, following up with your healthcare provider who assisted you with the wrist and/or a trained physical therapist in person can give you more specifics on this. We also have some content related to deadlifts if you would like more information on this! If you go to the search tab at theprehabguys.com and type in deadlifts you will find information. Best of luck to you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Luke Proctor
    Posted at 04:02h, 16 August Reply

    Hi , luke here (Dublin, ireland),

    Videos very beneficial. Iโ€™m currently in a cast for a broken wrist ( surgery Friday week ago went well) , there putting a lighter one on me this Thursday . Hoping to be back in work 4 weeks. Would you reccomend any exercises

    Kind regards

    Luke

    • Sherif Elnaggar
      Posted at 07:15h, 25 August Reply

      Thank you for your support! Check out our elbow, wrist, and hand program on our website!

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