Broken Wrist/ Radius Fracture

Other terms used in relation to a wrist fracture include:

  • Colles’ Fracture
  • Broken Wrist
  • Wrist Fracture
  • Fractured Radius

Fracture is the medical term for a break & therefore the terms ‘fractured wrist’ & ‘broken wrist’ can be used interchangeably. There are two long bones in the forearm called the radius & ulna. The radius lies on the thumb side of the wrist & forms the main articulation with the hand bones.

Because the radius articulates with the hand bones it is more commonly broken when someone lands on their outstretched hand. If the fractured fragment of bone shifts from its normal location then this may be referred to as a ‘Colles Fracture’.  

With a colles fracture a bony prominence or lump may be evident at the back of the wrist. With more severe fractures, the radius may be fractured in combination with the other bone of the forearm known as the ‘ulna’. The most commonly fractured bone in the wrist occurs at the base of the thumb and is referred to as a scaphoid fracture.

Broken Wrist treatment at the Physio Clinic Naas & Newbridge

Causes of a Broken Wrist/ Radius Fracture

A broken wrist commonly occurs where somebody trips & falls on an outstretched hand. A fractured wrist is the most common type of upper limb fracture. Elderly people who have bone weakness (osteoporosis) are at particular risk of fracturing their wrist.  Wrist fractures are also common in contact sports such as rugby, boxing or football.

A radius fracture most commonly occurs due to a traumatic weight bearing force through the wrist such as a fall onto an outstretched hand. This may occur with any fall, but is particularly common in sports such as skateboarding or snowboarding (particularly in icy conditions) where a fall onto a hard surface is unforgiving.

Signs & Symptoms of a Broken Wrist/ Radius Fracture

A recent trauma or fall which preceded the onset of wrist pain is the usual indicator for a wrist fracture. The patient will normally experience a sudden severe pain & this may be quickly followed by swelling in the area.

The presence of a lump in the wrist where there wasn’t one previously provides a strong indication of a fracture. Pain may also increase during certain movements of the wrist, when gripping or during weight-bearing activity (such as pushing) through the affected wrist. In severe radius fractures (with bony displacement), an obvious deformity may be detected.

Diagnosis of a Broken Wrist/ Radius Fracture

A bony prominence at the wrist or what is referred to as a ‘dinner fork’ deformity is common with a ‘colles’ wrist fracture. A wrist fracture is diagnosed via x-ray. X-ray is generally used in cases of suspected bone fracture whereas MRI scans are used more for soft tissue structures such as suspected disc bulges of the spine.

If a fracture does not show on the initial x-ray image, then it may be repeated 10-14 days after the injury. This is due to the fact that fracture lines may not appear on x-rays initially and take up to two weeks to manifest. This is especially true with smaller fractures, such as those of the scaphoid bone of the hand. An MRI can be more accurate in detecting a scaphoid fracture & may be recommended in cases where the diagnosis is unclear.

A thorough examination from a physiotherapist is essential to assist with diagnosis of a radius fracture. 

Physiotherapy for a Broken Wrist/ Radius Fracture

Patients who suffer a broken wrist will normally recover fully & in most cases will not suffer from ongoing issues with the wrist. The performance of physiotherapy guided exercises is vital in attaining full recovery.

Residual deficits in wrist function can be very difficult to rectify if the patient presents several months or years after an injury & therefore early & appropriate management is absolutely vital in recovery.

Return to sport or activity normally takes place over several weeks to months & must be guided by the physiotherapist or orthopaedic specialist.

Physiotherapy for a broken wrist generally involves:

  • joint mobilisation techniques
  • taping
  • activity modification
  • graded activity programme
  • strengthening exercises
  • soft tissue techniques

These interventions will commence once it has been confirmed that the fracture is healed & the patient has been given the ok by the orthopaedic specialist. After a wrist injury there is generally a deficit present in the involved upper limb & so strengthening exercises will be incorporated for the wrist, elbow & shoulder region. Our Chartered Physiotherapists will advise you of the most appropriate treatment & rehabilitation for your particular condition.

To book an appointment contact Naas Physio Clinic on:
(083) 1960344

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