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Do you have a wrist fracture?

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According to the statistics, when you are age 65 or older, the most common fracture you might incur is a hip fracture. However, when you are under the age of 65, a broken wrist is the most frequently seen type of fracture being treated in hospital emergency rooms. (Which begs the question: Is there a little sliver of time when you are 65 when you are not likely to sustain any type of fracture?)

Actually, one out of every six fractures treated in an emergency room is a wrist fracture. This usually implies a broken radius, which is one of the two forearm bones. While there are other kinds of broken bones that occur near the wrist, a broken wrist typically means that the end of the radius bone has been fractured.

The radius is actually the larger of the two bones in the forearm. The end that is toward the wrist is called the distal end. When a fracture occurs at the area of the radius that is near the wrist, it is called a distal radius fracture. The other bone in the forearm is called the ulna. When this particular bone breaks, it is referred to as a distal ulna fracture.

When someone breaks a wrist, it is usually the result of a fall, such as when someone is forced to land on an outstretched hand. Other forms of trauma, such as car accidents, bicycle accidents, and skiing accidents, can contribute to a broken wrist. For those individuals involved in certain athletics, a wrist guard can provide some protection from fractures, but it may not necessarily prevent them all.

In addition to such types of accidents, a wrist can break due to the presence of osteoporosis, or decreased density of the bone. When someone has this condition, even a minor fall can cause a broken wrist.

The most common symptoms associated with a broken wrist include intense pain in the area, swelling, and a slight deformity of the wrist. An x-ray will be taken to determine if a fracture has been sustained and to what degree. The wrist may hang in an odd manner. Interestingly, fractures most frequently occur about one inch from the end of the bone.

In most cases, a broken wrist is usually treated with a cast. Fortunately, the wrist is one area of the body that responds well and is quite agreeable with such treatment. The choice of treatment truly depends on the nature of the break, the patient’s age and current level of activity, along with what the doctor advises.

If the fractured bone is in good position, a cast may be applied until the bone heals. If the bone is not in good alignment, the doctor may have to correct the misalignment. If the bone is so far out of alignment that a cast will not correct it, surgical intervention may be necessary.

Patients should expect the fracture to hurt moderately for a few days. The use of ice packs, elevating the affected arm above the heart for brief periods of time, and using non-prescription pain medication may be all the patient needs.

Fortunately, after the bone has healed, most patients can return to their normal activities. However, one has to take into account the nature of the injury, the type of treatment received, and how the body responded to such treatment. Since the treatment for wrist injuries is so broad, it all depends on the individual. Most doctors will prescribe a regimen of physical therapy to help restore the use of the wrist and reduce the associated stiffness from the injury.

While a full and complete recovery may take up to a year, the patient will notice gradual improvements over time and can reintroduce more rigorous activities into his or her schedule within three to six months after the injury. Just be sure to consult with your doctor first.

(Information for this article was obtained at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic+a00412
and http://orthopedics.about.com/cs/upperfx/a/wristfracture.htm)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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