A Broken Wrist: What to Expect From the Recovery Process

If you’ve broken your wrist, you most likely have a distal radius fracture. The wrist is made up of eight small bones and a fracture can happen in any of them. But the radius — the larger of the two bones in your forearm — is most commonly affected when you fall during contact sports, biking, skiing, or inline skating. 

People with osteoporosis are also at great risk of a wrist break.

The radius usually breaks low on the bone, near where it connects to the bones of the hand on the thumb side of the wrist. If you’ve broken your wrist, you’re not alone — one of every 10 bones broken in the United States occurs in the wrist.

At Maryland Orthopedic Specialists, we’re ready to help diagnose and heal your fracture. Treatment depends on the type of fracture you’ve experienced, the extent of damage, your current health, and whether nerves were affected. 

Peter G. Fitzgibbons, MD, is fellowship-trained in both orthopedic trauma and hand surgery and is especially qualified to help you. 

What is involved in healing?

While everyone’s healing process is different, you can generally expect the following during recovery:

Splinting or casting

You may need to wear a splint for a few days, or a week, while the swelling in your wrist reduces. Our doctors then likely will place a cast on the wrist, which you should plan to wear for 6-8 weeks.

Regular X-rays

Even after a cast has been placed, expect regular X-rays to ensure you’re healing as you should. You may need a second cast if you have a complex break.

At-home care

For the first few days following a break, elevate your wrist above your heart to ease pain and swelling. Icing may also be recommended. We usually advise sessions of 15-30 minutes every two to three hours for the first two to three days. 

Don’t remove the splint to ice your wrist. Over-the-counter painkillers can manage your pain.

Physical therapy

Our doctors at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists recommend hand physical therapy, usually in the later stages of wrist fracture healing. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help restore range of motion and function. We can schedule those appointments for you.

Will I need surgery?

In most cases, these conservative healing methods are enough. But if you have a particularly severe or complex fracture, surgery may be required because a cast won’t be enough to help the bone heal correctly.

Surgery may involve the insertion of pins, screws, plates, or other devices to hold your bones in place to heal. We may recommend surgery in the following cases:

If you suspect you’ve injured a wrist and have pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, or apparent deformity, make an appointment with our experts at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists.

We can diagnose a fracture and get you the treatment necessary to heal and restore function. Call either our Bethesda or Germantown, Maryland, office or use our online system to schedule a consultation.

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