Distal Radius Fracture

The radius is the forearm bone on the inner edge of the arm, and fractures to this bone most commonly occur no further than an inch away from the wrist joint. It is the arm bone most regularly broken.


The symptoms will be similar to those of any broken wrist bone. Pain will strike immediately, and there may be inflammation in the area. The wrist might be tender to the touch. Bruising is common. There can also be a noticeable bone deformity where the fracture has arisen, with the wrist appearing twisted or peculiarly shaped.


This type of fracture is primarily sustained due to landing on an outstretched hand after a fall. You are most at risk during sports involving high speeds (e.g. skating) and potentially major impacts with other participants (such as rugby and basketball). After landing on the hand the wrist suffers hyperextension, which can then provoke the distal radius fracture. Other sports with a high incidence of wrist injuries include gymnastics, horse riding and any activity in which falling from a height is a possibility. Events unrelated to sports can also provoke the injury: a car accident or a comparable incident, for example.


There are different types of radius fracture, some more serious than others; a doctor will ascertain the extent of the injury. An extra-articular fracture does not run into the wrist joint itself, whereas an intra-articular fracture does. A comminuted fracture indicates the splitting of the bone into multiple pieces, and is a more severe injury than a fracture which does not break the bone so thoroughly. The treatment will vary depending on the particular fracture. Some injuries can be corrected without an operation but others cannot. When surgery is required, a metal plate may be used to hold the bone in position. A cast is often fitted eventually to keep the wrist in place.

In order to relieve your symptoms you should take anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen, though always check with a doctor. It will be necessarily to rest the wrist and not partake in any activities that could exacerbate the injury. While the wrist itself is healing, in a cast or otherwise, it is important to keep the other parts of the arm moving regularly to avoid rigidity or muscle weakness.


After successful healing of the fracture by surgery or other means, and following the removal of a cast after approximately 1 or 2 months (if you required one), you can begin physical therapy to build up normal motion again in the wrist joint. The process can take time, and a professional should advise you on the speed at which to gradually move on to stretching and strengthening training in the area. If the fracture has significantly altered your ability to carry out particular wrist movements, even after a steady course of physical therapy, then your doctor can talk to you about the sorts of activities to pursue and to avoid. Generally speaking it will be fine to return to low impact sports such as cycling and swimming, but due to the stiffness in the wrist that inevitably follows such injuries it depends on the individual whether they can successfully continue with rougher sports.

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