It can happen in an instant. A simple stumble down the stairs, trying to break a fall, or miscalculating a fastball during a baseball game. No matter how you fracture your wrist, you are going to need to treat it. Because wrist fractures make up 10 percent of all broken bone injuries, a fractured wrist is more common than you might imagine. Here are some next steps if you have – or believe you might have – fractured your wrist.
As soon as you are able, you can relieve sharp pain and prevent additional damage by providing support to the affected area. If you have a padded sling available, use that. If not, try wrapping your wrist in a newspaper or magazine to prevent the area from bending on your way to seek medical attention.
If your doctor determines the injury requires it, he will align the broken bones and provide a splint. It’s important the splint does not cut off circulation and allows for reasonable motion if necessary. When casting or splinting, do not do it on your own, especially if the bones require realignment – leave that to the professionals.
Elevation and Icing
Apply ice to reduce initial swelling. Do not place the ice directly on the skin but rather, wrap the ice in a towel or use an icepack before placing it on the injury. Leave the ice for at least 15 minutes for the best results. Be sure to keep your wrist elevated using a pillow or bandana until you receive further medical evaluation and treatment
If you fractured your wrist, you can certainly expect pain and swelling. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), or naproxen to ease both. If the pain is so severe that over-the-counter medications don’t help, your doctor may provide a prescription-strength pain medication until the swelling dies down.
Surgery or Other Procedures
Based on its severity and the failure of more conservative treatments to heal your fracture, your doctor may recommend surgery. Depending on the nature of the break, he may need to secure the fractured bones with screws, rods, pins, or plates to make sure that your bones are in place when they are healing. Expect long-term physical therapy to ensure you regain as much range of motion as possible after the surgery.
Seeking Immediate Medical Attention
While avoiding the doctor for a fractured wrist is never a good idea, pay particular attention to severe fractures. Seek immediate medical attention if your injury results in exposed bones; if you feel that there has been damage to nearby nerves, ligaments or blood vessels; or if you sense bone fragments may be loose. Upon your visit to the nearby emergency room or urgent care facility, expect to undergo an X-ray or MRI, followed by close monitoring and long-term treatment with your orthopedic specialist.
Specialized Treatment for Wrists and Hands
When it comes to caring for a fractured wrist, or any of the complex conditions that can affect the hand and upper extremities, Marylanders and those from across the eastern seaboard rely on Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder, where our board-certified orthopedic surgeons have years of experience caring for and performing complex orthopedic surgeries particular to this unique part of the body. If you are suffering from a fractured wrist – or any other concern to include carpal tunnel syndrome, painful joints, or even workman’s compensation or sports injuries – consider the experts at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. Call us today at (410) 296-6232 for a consultation, or complete our simple online appointment request form.