The Most Common Causes of Wrist Fractures (and How to Avoid Them)

wrist fractures

Did you know that more than 6.3 million bone fractures occur in the United States every year? Wrist fractures are an especially common type of fracture. After all, your wrists are often prone to damage even if you don’t realize it.

This is not to mention that your wrists are full of tiny bones that can easily break if you apply sudden and unexpected pressure to them. But what are the most common causes of wrist fractures in the first place? Is it possible to keep from fracturing your wrists at all?

More than that, how should you treat your wrist if you do end up breaking it? Keep reading and learn all about the details of fractured wrists below.

What Are the Symptoms of a Fractured Wrist?

There are many wrist fracture types, but all of them more or less have the same fractured wrist symptoms. The most obvious symptom, of course, is pain in the wrist that may extend into the hand. This pain may vary in intensity depending on how you move your wrist or hand.

For example, when letting your hand rest on your lap or on another surface, the pain might not be that intense. But when you grip something with your hand or attempt to rotate your wrist, you might get a sharp pang of severe pain. Pressing on your wrist may also produce intense pain if the wrist is fractured or broken in any way.

Besides pain, another common symptom involves swelling. If your wrist is broken, you may notice that the area will become unusually swollen. This swelling is the result of a large quantity of blood rushing to the area in an attempt to heal the damage.

Swelling often coincides with the pain of a fractured wrist because it makes the area more sensitive, warm, and tender. If you have just injured your wrist, this swelling will usually get worse in the hours following the injury. Usually, swelling isn’t a big problem, but in some cases, it can lead to compartment syndrome.

This is when the swelling in the area gets so severe that it physically cannot allow any more blood into the area. As a result, there is a chance that the tissue in the affected area could die off due to the lack of blood, oxygen, and nutrients. However, this is an uncommon complication, especially in the wrist.

Other Symptoms of Wrist Fractures

Another symptom involves bruising in the injured area. If you have just obtained a wrist fracture recently, the bruising may not appear right away.

Instead, the bruising may slowly appear after an hour or so. Usually, the bruising will get worse in appearance after several hours.

The bruising will be its most severe at the point of the fracture but it may also spread around the rest of the wrist, hand, and arm, depending on how you damaged your wrist. The most obvious symptom of a fractured wrist, besides pain, involves some kind of deformity of the wrist.

If you notice that your wrist is bent in a strange way or that it won’t move in a particular direction, it is likely broken. But what might cause a wrist fracture in the first place?

What Are the Most Common Causes of Wrist Fractures?

Falls are one of the most common causes of broken wrists, no matter the type of wrist fracture. When you fall, your natural instinct is to catch yourself with your hands before your face hits the ground. This is your body’s way of protecting its head which is much more vital than your hands.

When you fall on your hands, you tend to land on the base of your hands, if not the wrists themselves. When this happens, you end up putting all of your body’s weight onto your wrists. Of course, the bones in your wrists are not designed to hold this much weight, especially not when the weight is applied all at once in a very sudden manner.

When this happens, the weight on your wrist bones may cause one or several of the wrist bones to fracture. The severity of the fracture or fractures will depend on the severity of the fall. If you fall from a high height, for example, the impact on your wrist will be greater compared to tripping and falling on the floor.

A person may fall for a variety of reasons and some people may be more likely to fall than others. For example, those who often play sports are at a higher risk of fracturing their wrists compared to those who lead more sedentary lifestyles. In sports such as hockey, soccer, skateboarding, and rollerskating, among others, there will always be a chance that you will fall while moving at a fast speed and land on your wrist on a hard surface.

However, it isn’t just sports players that have a high risk of breaking their wrists.

More Factors Behind Wrist Fractures

The elderly also tend to break their wrists, among other bones, more often than the average population. This is because the elderly tend to have weak bones and they tend to have a worse sense of balance compared to those who are younger.

The elderly also take a longer time to recover from broken bones compared to young people. Another common cause of wrist fractures involves accidents. For example, many people who are involved in car accidents often end up with wrist fractures.

This is because your entire body will be accelerated at a high speed. When your car intercepts another car at this speed, this will jar your body and slam parts of your body against the inside of the car. Again, you will likely try to catch yourself and stabilize yourself within the car using your hands which will then result in a wrist fracture.

But how can you go about avoiding wrist fractures so you don’t have to deal with them in the first place?

How to Prevent Wrist Fractures

Since wrist fractures often happen while people are being active, you might be wondering if being sedentary is the only way to prevent wrist fractures. While it would be far less likely to sustain a fracture to the wrist while being sedentary, leading a sedentary lifestyle is not the answer because it is not healthy for your body overall. Instead, the answer to preventing wrist fractures is to take certain precautions while you’re being active.

For example, if you often play sports that require you to move at a high speed over a hard surface, you should wear wristguards. Wristguards are simple devices that you strap over your wrists and hands. They are made out of hard materials so if you do happen to fall on your outstretched hands, the wristguards will absorb most of the shock.

That way, you won’t break your wrists and the worst you’ll have to deal with is a bit of bruising in the area. Another good way to prevent wrist fractures is to make sure that your bones are strong and healthy. Many people have weak bones without even realizing it.

If you have weak bones, you will be more likely to break them even if you don’t play sports. Weak bones usually result from poor nutrition. To fix the problem, try to incorporate certain foods and vitamins into your diet.

For example, both calcium and vitamin D are essential when it comes to strengthening your bones. Calcium is what makes your bones stronger and denser while vitamin D is what helps bones absorb and use calcium in the first place. Without either of these nutrients, it won’t be possible to have strong bones.

Fortunately, it isn’t that hard to find foods that contain these nutrients.

How to Build Strong Bones

For example, dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are all rich in calcium. Consuming calcium and vitamin D supplements may also be helpful if your body has particularly low levels of these nutrients.

Besides nutrition, exercise is very important for keeping your bones strong. By exercising your hands, wrists, and arms, you can make sure that the bones in your wrists stay protected. If you find that you are prone to falling due to a condition, try to make your home a safer environment so that you won’t injure yourself when you fall.

For example, if you often lose your balance, try getting some handlebars installed throughout your home, especially in the locations in which you often lose your balance such as the bathroom or bedroom. That way, the handlebars will be there for you to steady yourself and you won’t have to worry about falling to the floor.

Try to avoid things that will make you trip as well such as thick rugs or carpets. When you go outside, wearing shoes with good traction will keep you from falling on slippery or icy surfaces.

How to Treat a Broken Wrist

Of course, there are cases in which preventing a broken wrist is impossible. So, what should you do if you do find yourself with a broken wrist? If you think you have a broken wrist, the first thing you should do is go to the doctor.

Many people might be wary about going to the doctor and decide to try and treat the injury at home instead. However, this is a very bad idea, especially if you care about the use of your wrist. While it is possible in some cases for a wrist to heal on its own, it usually won’t heal very well.

The bones in the wrist may fuse together in an improper way. As a result, you will likely lose some degree of movement in your wrist. You may find it difficult, if not impossible, to flex your wrist, rotate your wrist, or grasp things with your fingers.

If the wrist fracture is particularly severe, you may suffer from nerve or blood vessel damage in the area.

This could render your hand immobile if you don’t get it fixed by a medical professional. This could also result in a life-threatening infection if you’re not careful as damage to the blood vessels could result in a lack of blood flow to the hand.

Treatment Options

When you arrive at the hospital, it is important to get your wrist treated as soon as possible.

Your doctor will X-ray your wrist to see the extent of the damage. If you only have a minor fracture such as a hairline fracture, you won’t have much to worry about as these fractures tend to heal very well and quite quickly.

If the fracture is more severe, you will need to treat the wrist for a longer period of time. You will need a cast or splint to immobilize your wrist. This will allow the bones to heal in the right position and it will give your wrist a chance to rest.

Your doctor may prescribe you some pain medication for the pain as you heal. Also, to help with the pain, it is a good idea to use cold packs. Cold packs not only reduce pain but can help reduce any swelling that might be in the area as well.

Everything You Need to Know About Wrist Fractures

Wrist fractures can vary in their severity and they may happen for a variety of reasons. More often than not, wrist fractures happen as a result of falls. While there is no sure way to prevent wrist fractures completely, you can reduce the risk of them happening by strengthening your bones and wearing wristguards.

If you think you have broken your wrist, it is important to see a doctor right away. If you broke your wrist a long time ago and still are having problems with it, it is also important to see a doctor. Contact us here to learn more.

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The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas offers diagnosis and treatment for hand, wrist, and elbow problems in Houston, using the most advanced and minimally invasive medical techniques. Our orthopedic hand specialists and hand and finger surgeons are waiting to provide you with excellent care at one of our hand care centers in River Oaks, Webster, North Houston, Katy/Sugarland, or Baytown

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