The two most common types of wrist fractures are Colles’ fractures and Smith’s fractures. A Colles’ fracture is a fracture of the distal radius in the forearm just above the wrist and it usually results in a posterior displacement of the bone. A Smith’s fracture is also a fracture of the distal radius in the forearm just above the wrist, it usually results with a volar/anterior displacement of the bone
What Causes Wrist Fractures?
A Colles’ fracture usually occurs with a fall onto an outstretched hand with the wrist in extension. A Smith’s fracture usually occurs with a fall onto a flexed wrist.
How Can Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and/or Massage Therapy Help Treat Wrist Fractures?
Patients with wrist fractures are usually casted for 6-8 weeks and then sent for physiotherapy, chiropractic and/or massage therapy treatment after. When a joint is immobilized in a cast, there will be bone healing but there will be associated joint hypomobility/stiffness and muscle atrophy, tightness and weakness. Physiotherapy, chiropractic and massage can help with mobilizations to increase joint range-of-motion, soft tissue release work to loosen tight muscles and teaching a patient strengthening exercises to restore strength and function. They may also use acupuncture and modalities for pain control.
The practitioner will also look at the other joints of the upper extremity quadrant as the patient will usually not be using the affected wrist/limb in a normal way and there may be other issues to address.
What Should be Avoided with a Wrist Injury?
There is nothing specifically that a patient should avoid when they have a wrist fractures. One word of advice would be to not over protect the arm and hold the arm in the cast close to the body at all times. Make sure that you are moving the elbow, shoulder and fingers (if able) through full range-of-motion 10 times 4-5 times per day.
Decreasing the risk of falling again would be something to be concerned about.
How Long Does it Take to Recover from Wrist Injuries?
Bone healing takes about 6-8 weeks and usually occurs during the time that the patient is casted. It usually takes another 2-3 months to restore full range-of-motion, strength and function in the wrist. Like with any other injuries, the earlier a patient gets in for rehabilitation, the better.
What are Some Safe Home Exercises for Wrist Injuries?
Range-of-motion (circles, drawing letters of the alphabet) of the wrist, thumb (circles) and fingers (opening/closing) are easy exercises to do at home. Rolling and stretching of the wrist flexor/extensor muscles will help to reduce the tightness/soreness in these muscles. Lastly, wrist flexion and extension curls with no/light weight to start will help to strengthen the muscles.
Written by: Suzie Foreman, Physiotherapist