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Distal Radius Fracture

What is a Distal Radius Fracture?

Distal radius fractures are one of the most common types of fractures. They often occur due to falling on an outstretched hand, sports injuries, or direct trauma. The radius bone is one of the two long bones located in the forearm.  People with a distal radius fracture will initially feel pain in the wrist and may experience swelling through the lower arm and into the hand. Distal radius fractures are often diagnosed through imaging tests such as x-rays or CT scans.

Conservative Treatment for Distal Radius Fractures

Distal Radius fractures can be treated conservatively with casting for 4-6 weeks. Once the cast is removed, it is recommended to begin hand therapy with a wrist orthosis. The therapist may make a custom orthosis or the patient may be placed in a prefabricated brace provided by your doctor. The therapist will initially work on regaining range of motion and then will begin strengthening the wrist and hand once cleared to begin strengthening by the referring doctor. A patient should expect a full return to most activities 3 – 4 months after the initial injury.

Surgical Options for Distal Radius Fractures

If a fracture is not able to heal conservatively, surgical intervention may be appropriate. In surgery, your surgeon may use plates, screws, or pins to hold the broken bone in place in order to allow the fracture to heal. Depending on the severity of the fracture, patients should expect to begin therapy 7-10 days after surgery. Occasionally, a patient may be casted postoperatively for up to 4 weeks, and then therapy will begin once the cast is removed. At the patient’s first therapy visit postoperatively, the therapist will fabricate a custom wrist brace that the patient should plan to wear aside from exercises and bathing until cleared by the therapist or physician. The patient will begin range of motion exercises, scar management techniques, and learn techniques to manage swelling. The patient will be instructed to hold off from heavy lifting, gripping, pulling, pushing or weight bearing tasks until cleared by the therapist or referring physician. Patients should expect a full return to most activities around 3 – 4 months postoperatively.

It is important to seek care from a Certified Hand Therapist or an Occupational therapist specializing in hand therapy in order to ensure the highest quality of care for the best recovery.

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