Hand Wrist and Thumb Fractures
What are Hand, Wrist & Thumb Fractures?
A hand, wrist, or thumb fracture can range in severity from a thin crack to a shattered or crushed bone. Because we depend so heavily on the intricate coordination of all the delicate bones that make up our fingers, hands, and wrists, an injury that might seem minor still needs to be taken seriously. Like an elaborate belt and pulley system, each bone, ligament, and tendon is depended upon to make the whole hand function optimally. Our Houston hand specialists can help you.
The most common ways of referring to different kinds of bone fractures:
- Closed fracture: bone does not break through the skin
- Open fracture (or compound fracture): bone protrudes from the skin
- Hairline fracture: a thin crack in the bone
- Single fracture: breakage in one location only
- Segmental fracture: breakage in two locations
- Comminuted fracture: breakage into multiple pieces
- Displaced fracture: breakage into uneven pieces, making realignment difficult
- Non-displaced fracture: breakage into fairly even pieces, making realignment easier
- Greenstick fracture: bone has broken on one side and is bent on the other
- Torus fracture: bone has broken on one side, causing a bump on the other side
If there is bone protruding from your skin, it’s easy to see the fracture, but there are many different kinds of hand fractures, most under the skin. You could have a single break or several. You could have a hairline fracture or a serious displaced fracture. If you’ve had a hand injury that caused ongoing pain, come see us at HSST.
The pain of a facture is intense, and you may lose the ability to move your hand, wrist, or thumb completely. Never try to fix a possible fracture on your own. Anytime you’ve injured your hand, you need to see a doctor, and the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas has a proven track record. We can diagnose your injury quickly and see that you recovery promptly and correctly.
If you’ve had an injury to the hand or wrist, you need to see a doctor. But fractures can also be caused by osteoporosis and overuse. If your hand pain is intense, come see HSST immediately. We know everything about hands, and we can see you through any casts, splints, medications, or surgeries you might need, and then we can help you through recovery and any follow-up therapy you require. Don’t wait for an injury to heal on its own. You don’t want to take any chances where your hands are concerned.
Fractures can be caused by a wide variety of activities or situations.
Trauma is a common culprit. Fractures from trauma are typically caused by bearing all the weight of a fall on the hand, wrist, or arm, a vehicular accident, or a sports injury.
Osteoporosis can lead to fractures because bones are weakened by this condition and more easily broken by minor stressors.
Overuse is another cause because when muscles fatigue from overuse, the pressure on the bone may be strong enough to cause a fracture.
Sign & Symptoms
Fractures in the hand, wrist and thumb are commonly in the following places:
Scaphoid fracture: one of eight tiny wrist bones, the scaphoid is most commonly broken if the wrist is used to cushion a fall—often on slippery sidewalks, and in snowboarding, inline skating, hockey, or other sports.
Colles fracture: a break in the radius bone of your forearm (the one on the thumb side), usually about one inch from where it joins the wrist bones. It is also frequently caused when the wrist is used to cushion a fall.
Thumb and finger fractures: Bones are naturally rigid but can bend a little if an outside force is applied. But catching your thumb or finger in a way that creates a sideways or backward bend can result in a fracture. Sports, breaking a fall with the hand, and operating machinery are common culprits in this injury.
Other fractures we see of the hand, wrist, and thumb include joint dislocations and ulnar bone fractures near the wrist.
While there are always exceptions, if you have a fractured bone, you are usually in pain, particularly upon moving adjoining areas.
- Swelling, bruising, and if open, bleeding
- Intense pain
- Inability to move the affected area
- Numbness and tingling in the affected area (sometimes)
Diagnosis & Treatment
Time is of the essence in stabilizing the hand, wrist, or thumb to avoid further injury, more swelling, and internal or external bleeding.
If you think you have broken a hand, wrist or finger bone, the first step is to immobilize the affected area and get to a Houston doctor or ER for evaluation. While you are in transit, a makeshift splint like a rolled magazine may help keep a broken wrist supported. Keeping your arm raised and gently applying ice is helpful in reducing swelling, making treatment easier.
In the ER or primary care office, an X-ray may be ordered, or an MRI if soft tissue damage is suspected. Treatment of fractured bones falls into these broad categories:
- Stabilize/immobilize for self-healing (hairline fractures and some simple fractures can be treated this way)
- Realign bones by manipulation in the case of closed, non-displaced fractures with one and sometimes two fracture sites may be candidates
- Surgically realign bones in the case of non-displaced fractures
- Surgically realign or repair bones (sometimes with the use of bone grafts) by using hardware such as pins, screws, plates, or wires, temporarily or permanently, to hold bone alignment in place
Casts, splinting, and other appliances and aids are used in various combinations to allow fractures and joint dislocations to heal. This usually takes 3-6 weeks, depending on the nature and location of the break, as well as the age and overall health of the patient.