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Recovering from a Broken Wrist. Getting your plaster off is just the beginning…

Blog post by Erika Lassig

A broken wrist is a common childhood injury. Four weeks in plaster and then everything is ok again. Most of us think it will be the same story for an adult, however that isn’t true. Whilst a broken wrist is also a common injury for an adult, unfortunately the recovery is not so easy. After the initial six weeks in plaster, your wrist and hand need a lot more time and work to get back to your pre-injury activities.

A broken wrist is usually a fracture of the distal radius, that is a break in the end of the forearm bone on the thumb side at or near the wrist joint. In older people, this can be caused by a simple fall, whereas in younger people this is usually caused by motor vehicle or sporting accidents. An American study published in 2009 (Ehsan & Stevanovic) estimated women as having a 15% chance of having a wrist fracture in their lifetime, whereas men have a 2% chance of a wrist fracture in their lifetime. An Australian study published in 2001 (Nguyen, Sambrook & Eisman) reported women to be four times more likely to fracture their distal radius than men.

Stiffness and weakness of the wrist AND hand are the most common problems after coming out of plaster, whether the fracture was treated in a cast or required a surgical fixation. Most people also experience some degree of swelling and pain, but this varies greatly from person to person. It is also important to consider that in the early days after the plaster comes off, whilst the bone has healed enough to allow movement and some light everyday hand use, it hasn’t healed to it’s full strength and this is likely to take at least 3 months after the injury.

The therapist’s role is not only to prescribe exercises and materials for therapy but help you to understand the healing process and what activities are safe to commence at what time. This helps to prevent re-injury and unnecessary pain and frustration. It is a lengthy process the but investment of time and energy into your hand therapy regime will pay off in the future.

All images used in this post are courtesy of  www.meandmytravelbugs.com

References:

Nguyen, T.V., Sambrook, P. N., & Eisman, J.A. (2001) Risk factors for proximal humerus, forearm, and wrist fractures in elderly men and women: The Dubbo osteoporosis epidemiology study American Journal of Epidemiology, 153(5): 587–595.

Ehsan, A. & Stevanovic, M. (2009) Skeletally mature patients with bilateral distal radius fractures have more associated injuries Clinical Orthopaedics & Related research 468(1): 238-242.

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