Broken Wrist (Broken Hand)

What is a Broken Wrist?

A broken wrist occurs when a lower portion of the arm (ulna or radius) becomes fractured. It can also include one or more of the eight carpal bones in the hand. Both the ulna and the radius can break simultaneously, but more often than not only the largest bone (radius) breaks.

A broken wrist and/or hand most often occurs when people attempt to break a fall, but it also happens as a result of vehicle accidents, sporting activities and crushing injuries. Osteoporosis is a major risk factor, and it is not unheard of for an elderly person to break both wrists at once.

 What are the Symptoms of a Broken Wrist?

The symptoms of a broken wrist may include:

  • Tenderness of the wrist, especially on the thumb side
  • Extreme pain that worsens when gripping an object or rotating the hand
  • Inflammation
  • Bruises
  • Trouble touching the tip of the thumb to the pinky finger
  • Hand numbness
  • Crooked finger or misalignment of the wrist

Broken Wrist Causes

A broken wrist or a broken hand is a crack or break in one or more bones in the hand or wrist. These injuries are commonly caused by people leaning hard on an outstretched hand or trying to catch themselves during a fall.

A crushing injury or a direct blow to your wrist or hands can break any of the bones in them.

The most common causes include:

  • Motor vehicle crush
  • Falls
  • Sports injuries

There are also risk factors such as having a bone-thinning disease like osteoporosis, which can increase your chances of breaking a hand or a wrist. Participating in certain sports activities such as football, horseback riding, rugby, hockey, skiing and jumping on a trampoline can also expose you to a higher risk of breaking your wrist or bones.

How is a Broken Wrist Treated?

It is imperative that medical treatment begins immediately for proper alignment and healing. Imaging is necessary to confirm a broken wrist/broken hand. It can affect strength, range of motion and the ability to perform simple tasks such as buttoning a shirt should it heal incorrectly.

Treatment includes

  • Oral pain reliever
  • Muscle relaxer
  • Realignment without surgery
  • Surgery to realign and reconnect the broken bones
  • External or internal fixation devices
  • Immobilization with a splint or cast

Physical therapy is sometimes necessary after the removal of the splint or cast. Healing of the bone can take up to four months. Severe breaks can take several months to completely heal.

Broken Wrist Prevention

If you have osteoporosis, treat the condition directly with calcium supplements or with medicines. Try to minimize the pressure applied on the already affected bones.

Practicing safety tips to avoid unnecessary falling can significantly prevent broken wrists and bones.

Tips include:

  • Use a walker, especially during nasty weather
  • Use a fanny pack, shoulder pack or backpack to leave hands free
  • Always stop at curbs to check heights before stepping down or up
  • Keep floor surfaces smooth but not slippery and always be aware of the level difference between the floor and the threshold
  • Use a rubber bath mat especially in the shower or tub
  • Use a stable stepping stool in hard to reach areas
  • Use all the required gaming pads when participating in any physical sport
Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 21, 2017