Broken wrist: what’s next?
Fractured joints can take a while to recover, especially if the patient is unaware of what he should and shouldn’t do to ensure the healing process is quick and effective. In this article, we will discuss a few strategies that have proven effective in the treatment and rehabilitation of a broken wrist. If you or someone you know has suffered from a wrist fracture, you will find this one very helpful. Before implementing any of the techniques discussed in this article, make sure to consult your orthopedic specialist in Palm Beach County, either Dr. Justin Kearse of Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute, who specializes in Hand, Upper Extremity and General Orthopedics, or Dr. Andrew Seltzer, who specializes in Hand, Wrist, Elbow, Total Joint Replacement & Arthroscopy.
A broken wrist (also known as a Colles’ fracture or distal radius fracture) requires immediate medical attention. If you fell or hit your hand and your wrist starts to swell up, it probably means it’s fractured. What are some of the symptoms of a broken wrist? They include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Bruising and/or swelling
- Limited mobility
- Wrist deformation
- Numbness in the hand
- Pale fingers (if the broken bone damaged the nerves or affected blood flow)
First and foremost, you should visit your local Urgent Care Center or ER. The doctor will examine your wrist and do an X-ray to check the joint and assess the damage. In some cases, a broken bone in the wrist will need to be reset. Your hand will be put in a cast for approximately 6-8 weeks, depending on how the bone is healing. During that time, it’s good to elevate the wrist to ease pain and swelling.
How to help the wrist recover after the cast is removed
According to our orthopedic doctor in Palm Beach County, the time after the cast is removed is crucial to the recovery of the wrist. What you do in those first weeks after the removal can significantly influence the time it takes to regain full functionality of your hand. You want to make sure you take it easy and do not overburden the fragile bone. That means no lifting heavy objects, no typing on your computer for a few hours straight, and no playing sports that involve hands (tennis, squash, etc.). All of them can cause serious damage to your recently injured wrist. You will also want to take care of the skin on your hand after the cast is removed. It will be dry and sensitive. We advise soaking the affected area in warm, soapy water for 10-15 minutes and then drying it off with a towel. This will cause the dry skin to come off. After that, you can apply any type of moisturizer to soften the skin and prevent any itching or redness.
Your wrist may still feel different after the cast is removed. Swelling and pain may occur, in which case you can ice the hand and keep it elevated (e.g. by resting it on your opposite shoulder) to reduce it. However, if the pain or numbness continue, you need to consult your orthopedic specialist in Palm Beach County.
Intense workouts right after the cast is removed will only cause damage to your fragile bones; however, some well-designed, light exercises can help your wrist heal faster. Flexing your arm, hand and fingers will help the stiffness subside. Oxford University Hospitals, Physiotherapy Department, recommends the following exercises:
Do these exercises often and regularly – 3 or 4 times a day – for best results. If the hand starts to ache, however, don’t force it. See your orthopedic doctor in Palm Beach County for advice in the matter.