You have two bones in your forearm, the radius and the ulna, which connect the elbow to the wrist. The radius is the most frequently broken bone in the arm. A distal radius “ray-dee-us” fracture is a break just before the wrist joint.   The fracture is considered simple if the bone is broken in only one place.   A complex fracture occurs if the bone shatters into many pieces, if another bone breaks along with the radius or if parts of the bone move out of their normal position.

A distal radius fracture may cause pain, swelling, bruising and tenderness and in some cases, the wrist will look abnormal. There may also be numbness and tingling.

A distal radius fracture is usually caused by a fall on an outstretched hand or through contact sports and physical activities.  The fracture happens when a significant force is placed on the bone.

X-rays will confirm the fracture. The doctor will then determine how to treat it. Depending if it is simple or complex, you may need to be seen by an orthopedist, or bone specialist. Some fractures will require immobilization in a cast while others may require surgery to realign the bone.

You will probably be referred to a hand therapist when your doctor or the orthopedist feels that you are ready to move your wrist.   A therapist will educate and instruct you on how to reduce swelling and pain and give you helpful tips on how to return to daily activities while your fracture heals.   For protection, your therapist may also make a type of plastic orthosis “or-tho-sis” (custom brace) to help support your wrist. When the doctor and the therapist decide it is safe, exercises will be done to move and strengthen your fingers, wrist and forearm. The therapy goals will be to restore normal function and use of your wrist and hand.

If you have any questions, please contact the Rehabilitation Services at North Country Hospital at 334-3260.

Reference: From the Patient Education Resources, Distal Radius fracture from the ASHT (American Society of Hand Therapy)

Johanne Champigny, OTR/L CHT.   Johanne has been an Occupational Therapist at North Country Hospital since 1995, and was certified as a hand therapist in May 2015.