About Wrist Fractures
Pain and swelling after a wrist injury are the most common symptoms of a broken wrist (wrist fracture). The most common wrist fracture is of the distal radius. Obvious signs of a broken wrist include deformity, swelling, bruising, and pain. Fractures of the scaphoid bone of the wrist are less common but can lead to more complicated recovery due to the bone’s poor blood flow and potential for delayed diagnosis and non-union (non-healing of fracture). Continued pain after a wrist injury even in the absence of obvious swelling or limitation in motion could be related to a wrist fracture.
Cause and Anatomy of a Wrist Fracture
The most common cause for a broken wrist is a fall on outstretched hand (FOOSH) injury. Sometimes, hyperextension or torsional strain may also lead to a fracture. Any significant impact to the wrist can cause a fracture. While any bone in the wrist area can break, the two most common injuries are highlighted in the normal X-ray picture.
Diagnosis of a Wrist Fracture
Most wrist fractures are simply diagnosed using X-rays. However, more subtle fractures or fractures with complex fracture patterns may require advanced imaging such as an MRI or CT scan to determine presence of the fracture and/or appropriate treatment options. It is important to see an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand/wrist injuries as soon as possible. Delayed care and diagnosis may lead to poor outcomes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to travel after a wrist fracture?
In general, yes it is safe to fly after a wrist fracture with it immobilized in a cast/brace. You cannot drive if you require narcotic pain medication for your wrist fracture. It is common for patients to fly even the day after surgery if needed.
Do I need to go to the Emergency Room if think I broke my wrist?
All OCC locations offer same/next-day appointments and convenient on-site X-ray. If you have obvious deformity or bleeding from the fracture site, it indicates a more severe injury, in which case you should go to an emergency room right away.
In the absence of deformity or significant swelling, it is generally safe to wait a day if needed and be seen by an orthopedic surgeon. You may also seek care at an urgent care if the injury is less severe as described above and outside normal business hours or on the weekend.
If I can still move my wrist, does it mean my wrist isn’t broken?
Not necessarily. Subtle fracture of the scaphoid or other bones can cause little pain or swelling, allowing you to still maintain motion. However, if not treated appropriately, the bone may not heal, leading to more complicated care.