Rehabilitation After Wrist Fracture
A fractured wrist is often the result of landing on a hand that has been extended to break a fall, or of a sports-related injury. In addition, the elderly are prone to wrist fractures because of the fragility of their bones. A wrist fracture results in pain, swelling, tenderness, and limited mobility of the wrist. A fractured wrist can damage bones and joints, and if left untreated, problems with the wrist joint may occur and arthritis may develop within the joints. After the initial injury has been treated and healing begins, physical therapy can be beneficial in helping patients to regain range of motion, strength, and function to the wrist and hand.
The patient may wear a splint or cast for 4 to 6 weeks, while the wrist heals. After the cast is removed, initial physical therapy treatments may include ice, electrical stimulation and massage, to help control pain and swelling. As the healing begins, exercises may be used to increase movement and mobility. Physical therapy exercises focus on improving strength and regaining range of motion and mobility to the wrist and hand. Exercises may include the use of exercise bands or small weights that provide added resistance for the hand and wrist.
In severe cases, surgery may be required to reposition bones that have been severely damaged from a fracture. During surgery, the bones are aligned, and then held in place with plates or screws, metal pins, or an external stabilizer. After surgery, the hand and wrist will be bandaged, and a cast or splint is used for support. Initial physical therapy treatment focuses on controlling the pain and swelling after surgery. As the injury heals, exercises are introduced to help strengthen and stabilize the muscles around the wrist joint. Additional exercises may be used to improve fine motor control and movement of the hand. The physical therapist also works with the patient to perform activities without straining the wrist joint. Physical or occupational therapy sessions may be required for up to three months after surgery.