Wrist Fractures

What is a wrist fracture (broken wrist)?wrist fracture

The wrist is a joint made up of two major bones in the lower arm that are known as the radius and the ulna. The radius and ulna are connected to the small bones of the hand. A healthcare provider diagnoses a wrist fracture when the radius or ulna breaks within two inches of the wrist. When this type of fracture occurs in the radius, it may be referred to as a Colles’ fracture.

How common is a wrist fracture?

It has been estimated that there are over 400,000 wrist fractures per year in men and women of all ages in the United States, A wrist fracture is a common type of fracture that occurs in women most often around the time of menopause.

How do you know if you have a broken wrist?

It is common for people to experience pain following a wrist fracture, most of which have been reported to occur as a result of a fall. If you suspect that you have a wrist fracture, it is important to consult your healthcare provider. He or she will exam your wrist to determine the need for an x-ray. The x-ray can tell if you have a broken bone.

How do you treat a wrist fracture?

A wrist fracture usually requires a cast, splint, or brace for several weeks. This limits movement of the wrist and elbow to allow the broken bone to heal. If the wrist fracture is complicated, surgery may be needed to properly align the broken bones. It is important to be followed closely by your healthcare provider after a wrist fracture in order to assess bone density.

Is having a broken wrist as an adult a risk factor for osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a silent disease. Breaking a bone after the age of 50 may be the first sign of osteoporosis. It is important to discuss your personal and family history of fractures and risk factors for osteoporosis with your healthcare provider. After careful review of this information, your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate time for you to have a bone mineral density (BMD) test. Early detection of osteoporosis and treatment when indicated are important to reduce the risk of fractures in the future.

How does a wrist fracture affect my daily activities?

At first, you may need assistance with simple activities of daily living such as dressing, brushing your teeth, or making your bed. You may find it necessary to ask family or friends for help with shopping and household chores. Your healthcare provider may recommend specific exercises or refer you to an occupational/physical therapist to provide you with an individualized treatment plan to strengthen your wrist and improve your range of motion.

What can I do to promote healthy bones?

It is always important to follow the steps for stronger bones.

Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Eat the amount of calories and protein you need. The amount that you need will depend on your height, weight, age, and medical condition.

Get the calcium you need. It is recommended that adults consume 1000 to 1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. It is best to get calcium from the foods you eat. Foods rich in calcium such as low fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark green leafy vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens), canned fish (sardines, salmon) eaten with bones, or calcium-fortified (with calcium added) foods. The body uses calcium best when it is spaced through the day. Try to eat a calcium rich food at each meal or snack. If you think that you are not getting the recommended amount of calcium in the foods you eat, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to find out if a calcium supplement is right for you. Calcium supplements should not be taken without the advice of your healthcare provider. Too much calcium taken on a routine basis, particularly from supplements, may be harmful.

Get the recommended amount of vitamin D. There are only a few good natural sources of vitamin D including fatty fish such as catfish, eel, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna and shiitake mushrooms. Small amounts of vitamin D are added to all cow’s milk, some types of beverages (almond, coconut, rice, or soy beverages and orange juice), yogurt, cheese, and nutrition bars. Adults under 50 years of age should consume 400-800 international units (IU) or 10-20 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D daily. Adults 50 years of age and above should consume 800-1000 IU or 20-25mcg daily. Your healthcare provider may recommend more vitamin D than above stated amounts based on your individual needs.

Be physically active. Your bones get stronger and denser when you make them work. Walking, climbing stairs, and dancing are impact (or weight-bearing) exercises that strengthen your bones by moving your body against gravity when you are standing. Resistance exercises such as lifting weights or using exercise bands strengthens your bones and your muscles too! Tai Chi is an example of physical activity that improves posture and balance to help decrease the risk for falls and fractures. Exercise can be easy; try 10 minutes at a time, adding the minutes up to reach your goal.

Don’t smoke. If you do, STOP. Call 1-800-NYQUITS for information about how to quit.

Limit alcohol. Before drinking alcohol, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about possible interactions with your medication or your medical condition. Too much alcohol can be harmful for your bones and your overall health.

Take action to prevent falls. Most broken bones occur as a result of a fall that can be prevented. Some actions to prevent falls at home include using nightlights, removing or securing scatter rugs, and getting rid of clutter.

Strong bones are a lifelong commitment. It is never too early or too late to take the steps to promote stronger bones. At any age you can reduce your risk for falling and breaking a bone.