A wrist fracture is a term for a ‘broken wrist’. Whereas once the term fracture was used only to describe hairline cracks in the bone, today it is used more widely to describe all manner of breaks both minor and severe.
Recognizing you have a broken wrist is very important in order to ensure you get the correct treatment and are thus able to make a full recovery. Otherwise you might find that your wrist ends up becoming a source of chronic pain over a long amount of time that leads to discomfort and a reduced range of movement/dexterity.
Common causes of a broken wrist include falling onto it (often we put our hands out in front of us or behind to break our fall), punching something with too much force/incorrect technique, or bashing it against something such as a wall when gesticulating. The wrist is one of the most common broken bones, and particularly among those under 65 (after which hip fractures become more common). This is partly because we use our wrists so regularly in such a range of activities, and also because of the fragile and complex nature of the joint. Thus it will not take much in order for us to damage our wrists and cause a fracture and we might not straight away consider this as a possibility. Looking out for the symptoms then is crucial.
Symptoms of Wrist Fracture
The most common symptoms of wrist fracture are pain and swelling. If your wrist appears to be larger than the other wrist and if you are experiencing some pain then you will likely have either broken or sprained your wrist. You might also notice that your wrist is tender to touch, and that you struggle to move it as easily as normal. There may also be some bruising/redness.
In severe cases of fracture your wrist will appear to be deformed and you might notice that your skin is bunched up around the joint or that the hand and arm aren’t correctly aligned. You may also experience nerve damage to the fingers as the nerves can become tangled up with the bone and thus cause a tingling sensation in the fingers or perhaps loss of normal movement.
Note that it is not possible to dislocate your wrist. Thus if your wrist appears misshapen it is fractured and you will require medical attention – do not attempt to realign it yourself or you may damage your nerves and lose movement in your fingers.
While doctors will be able to guess as to whether you have fractured or sprained your wrist, the precise nature of the problem will be ascertained using an X-ray in order to get a visualization of the damage. Treatment will normally include a plaster cast, and potentially surgery if it is necessary for the wrist to be re-aligned and pinned in place.