A wrist fracture is a break in one or more of the bones in the wrist. The wrist is made up of the two bones in the forearm called the radius and the ulna. It also includes eight carpal bones. The carpal bones lie between the end of the forearm bones and the bases of the fingers. The most commonly fractured carpal bone is called the scaphoid or navicular bone.
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A wrist fracture is caused by trauma to the bones in the wrist. Causes include:
- Falling on an outstretched arm
- Direct blow to the wrist
- Severe twist of the wrist
Factors that increase your chance of developing a wrist fracture include:
- Participating in contact sports, such as football or soccer
- Participating in activities such as in-line skating, skateboarding or bike riding
- Participating in any activity which could cause you to fall on your outstretched hand
- Violence or high-velocity trauma, such as an automobile accident
Symptoms of a wrist fracture include.
- Swelling and tenderness around the wrist
- Bruising around the wrist
- Limited range of wrist or thumb motion
- Visible deformity in the wrist
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity and how the injury occurred. Your doctor will also examine the injured area.
Images may be taken of your wrist. This can be done with:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
Treatment depends on the severity of the injury. It may involve:
- Putting the pieces of the bone back together. This may require surgery.
- Keeping the pieces of the bone together while the bone heals.
Devices that may be used to hold the bone in place while it heals include:
- A cast — may be used with or without surgery
- A metal plate with screws, which requires surgery
- Screws alone, which requires surgery
- Metal pins that cross the bone with a metal splint on the outside of the wrist that holds the pins and the fractured bone in place — requires surgery
Your doctor may give you pain medicine depending on your level of pain. Your doctor will order more X-rays while the bone heals to help make sure that the bones have not shifted.
A fracture of a carpal bone may take 10-16 weeks to heal.
To help reduce your chance of getting a wrist fracture, take the following steps:
- Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the wrist bones.
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Build strong muscles to prevent falls and stay flexible.
- Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.