Distal Radius Fracture (Hand and Wrist)

Wrist fractures are a common injury among the active youth and elderly. Here’s more about wrist fracture rehabilitation and advice on injury prevention.

The saying “age is just a number” has never been more relevant than it is today. More older people refuse to let advancing age and a fear of injury prevent them from leading an active lifestyle. Some even jump at opportunities to pick up new sports, like skiing during their winter holidays.

However, ageing bones and joints may sometimes get in the way of learning new tricks.

Bone Density and Hand/Wrist Fractures

Bone density decreases over time, resulting in thinner bones that are more prone to fracturing or breaking upon impact. Picking up new skills or even everyday activities exposes us to the risk of falling or heavy impact. A natural way to break a fall is to reach out for support, leading to a common joint injury: a wrist or hand fracture or a broken wrist.

What is a Distal Radius Fracture?

According to Dr David Tan, a consultant at National University Hospital's Department of Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery, the hospital sees about 700 patients for distal radius fracture — a term that refers to a break in the larger bone in the forearm (the radius) that occurs near the wrist — each year. Most of these patients are in their 50s and 60s.

Wrist fractures are commonly sustained when the wrist takes the full force of a fall, especially if the bones in the wrist have weakened with age.

Wrist Fracture Treatment

Minor wrist fractures can be treated with casting or splinting, which restrict movement to facilitate healing.

In the event where the bones in the wrist are severely out of place, surgery may be advised. Surgical treatment typically involves placing a low-profile titanium implant with a plate and screws in the broken wrist. This holds the bones in place so that the patient can heal and eventually regain proper wrist function.

Wrist Fracture Rehabilitation and Prevention

Following surgery, most patients are prescribed a recovery regimen of occupational therapy and mobilisation.

Patients on a cast or splint are completely immobilised for four to six weeks, then partially immobilised for another four weeks. Total downtime is usually about two to three months before starting therapy. Furthermore, muscle wasting and stiffness in the wrist may occur during immobilisation, which could affect an individual’s rate of recovery.

Preventing Wrist Fractures

Ultimately, prevention is always better than cure. Proper training at a manageable pace when playing sports can go a long way towards protecting yourself from serious injuries. Wherever possible, gear up with protective equipment such as wrist guards and helmets, which play a critical role in keeping you safe and active.

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