In 1814, Dr. Abraham Colles wrote a scientific paper about wrist fractures. In doing so, wrist fractures—the ones that denote a break at the radius bone located in the forearm—are named after him. The Colles' wrist fracture isn't an uncommon malady, given that the older we get, the more frail and brittle our bones become. Fractures of the bones happen, and they can be quite debilitating depending upon their severity. Read on to learn more about wrist fractures and their necessary treatments.
What is a wrist fracture?
There are various kinds of wrist fractures. To find out which one you have, you'll need to come in for a consultation with Dr. Eubanks. Wrist fractures vary in severity, and typically fall into one of the following categories:
- Open fracture - With an open fracture, the bone actually breaks through the skin.
- Comminuted fracture - The bone breaks into multiple parts if you have a comminuted fracture.
- Intra-articular fracture - During an intra-articular fracture, the bone breaks into the wrist.
- Extra-articular fracture - An extra-articular fracture is characterized by your joint not being impacted at all.
Preventing a wrist fracture from happening in the first place
In an ideal world, prevention is the best medicine. If you endure a wrist fracture, and want to lower your risk for another one, consider these natural forms of preventative medicine:
- Make sure you're getting proper nutrition - A nutrient-dense diet feeds your bones in a way nothing else can. We naturally need to pay more attention to what we eat as we get older in order to prevent our bones from becoming hard and brittle and prone to breaks. Be sure to eat plenty of dark, green leafy vegetables, as they contain essential vitamins for bone health. Avoid processed foods and seed oils, and focus your diet around grass-fed butter, whole foods in the form of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
- Move it so you don't lose it - Exercise your body to prevent it from becoming fragile. The stronger your muscles are, the better off your bones will be too. Exercise improves your balance, which helps prevent falls and accidents from ever happening in the first place. A strong, well balanced body that remains agile with age is the best preventative medicine for fractures of all shapes and forms!
- Wear a wrist guard - If all else fails, protect your wrists by wearing a wrist guard, especially if you're prone to falling or move in ways that put you at risk for a fall. Wearing a wrist guard is an easy way to help prevent a fracture.
What puts you at risk for a wrist fracture?
- Getting older - We all know the older we are, the more we're at risk for bone breaks and fractures because our bones lose their integrity simply by virtue of aging.
- Being young - On the other hand, small children are at risk for this type of fracture because their bones are soft and still forming.
- You've been diagnosed with osteoporosis - Osteoporosis puts you at greater risk for fractures of all kinds.
- You're nutrient deficient - Your bones need sufficient amounts of nutrients to maintain their health over time. Calcium and vitamin D are two key nutrients for bone health.
- You've lost muscle mass - The muscles around your bones play a huge role in the prevention of bone fractures. When you’re strong and steady, you're less likely to have a fall.
- You're chronically sleep deprived - We all know how it feels to be sleep deprived. Over time, we’re more prone to accidents, putting us at greater risk for fractures.
Signs you're suffering from a wrist fracture
If you've sustained a wrist fracture, you may find it difficult to get your grip. You might not be able to hold onto anything, and find it hard to go about daily activities. Bruising, swelling, and various degrees of pain are telltale signs you've endured a wrist fracture. You may also notice a deformity, as the wrist can become abnormally bent.
What are the various treatments for a wrist fracture?
Treatments run the gamut. From non-invasive, DIY remedies, to full fledged surgery. Let's take a look at what treatment might be best for you.
- Cold therapy
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication
A reduction may be the best treatment for moderate fractures that don't need full-blown surgery. This non-invasive treatment involves straightening the bone with a splint if there’s a deformity. The splint allows for necessary healing and straightening, after which, a cast is needed as the next step. Typically, you'll wear a cast for a few weeks, and then you're good!
Dr. Eubanks will recommend surgery if the fracture is severe enough. Procedure varies depending upon the degree of the break. Dr. Eubanks will make an incision in the area of your wrist where you feel your pulse. Plates and screws are put into place to hold the broken bones together. If a second incision is needed, it will happen on the back of the wrist. In really severe cases, plates and screws may not do the trick. An external fixator with external wiring holds the bones in place in this instance.
Post-op recovery and physical therapy
Recovery and healing after surgery can take time—for some, more than a year. This is normal, and should be expected so as not to disappoint you. Some activities will be easy just a month or two after surgery, whereas others won't come naturally for six months, and still others, up to a year or beyond. Have compassion for yourself during the healing process post-operation. It's not easy for anyone to sustain an injury that requires surgery, and it's best to understand that and have patience for this reality.
You may even need physical therapy, which can be incredibly beneficial for your body, mind, and spirit. Working with a physical therapist will not only provide relief from pain, but also give your mind something to focus on. Goals for healing set by a good physical therapist will uplift you, and even teach you ways to prevent injury going forward. If physical therapy is needed, Dr. Eubanks will recommend a physical therapist you can count on.
Our Surgeon Specializing in Wrist Fracture
- Ryan Eubanks, DO
- Hand, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon
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