Wrist Fracture: Teen Version

What is a wrist fracture?

Your wrist is made up of eight bones. They attach to the bones in your forearm and the bones in your hand. A fracture is a break in a bone. When you break your wrist, you may have broken the ends of the forearm bones (radius or ulna) or one of the eight wrist bones.

How does it occur?

The usual causes of a wrist fracture are:

  • a fall
  • a direct blow to the wrist

What are the symptoms?

Your wrist is painful and swollen. When the navicular bone is fractured, the area below the thumb is tender.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your wrist and review your symptoms. An X-ray of your wrist may show a fracture. Sometimes a fracture may not show up in the first X-ray and your healthcare provider may recommend that you have a repeat X-ray in 1 to 2 weeks.

How is it treated?

  • If the broken bone is crooked, your healthcare provider will straighten it. Your provider will give you medicine first so the straightening is not too painful.
  • You may be given a splint for your wrist for a few days until the swelling begins to go down. Then your wrist will be put in a cast for 4 to 8 weeks. Certain types of fractures may need to be in a cast longer. Some fractures may need surgery.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
  • Raise your wrist on a pillow when you sit or lie down for the first 2 to 3 days. This will help control pain and swelling.
  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the cast every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time. Take care not to get your cast wet if it is a plaster cast.

How long will the effects last?

Wrist fractures may take 6 to 12 weeks or longer to heal. Some fractures do not heal and require surgery. Some people may develop stiffness in their wrist.

When can I return to my normal activities?

Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your normal activities depends on how soon your wrist recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. The goal is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.

You may return to your normal activities when you have full range of motion in your wrist without pain. Your injured wrist, hand, and forearm need to have the same strength as the uninjured side. If you return to using your wrist too soon after a wrist fracture there could be problems with healing. It is very important to be sure that none of your activities cause wrist pain or tenderness.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain is getting worse instead of better.
  • You feel that your cast is too tight and you have swelling that doesn't get better when you elevate your injury.

How can I prevent a wrist fracture?

Most wrist fractures are caused by accidents that you cannot easily prevent. However, when you do activities such as rollerblading, be sure to wear protective wrist guards.

Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-08
Last reviewed: 2009-12-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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