The most common fracture to the wrist occurs to the distal radius, the end of the larger of the two arm bones at the thumb-side of the wrist. Distal radius fractures usually happen about one inch from the end of the radius and most often occur in people over 60. The injury causes pain, swelling, bruising and can create a deformed appearance to the wrist.
Initial treatment usually includes icing, elevating the arm and anti-inflammatory medications to control pain and swelling. If the bone is properly aligned, a splint may be used for the first few days. A cast may be added a few days later, after the swelling has gone down. It may need to be changed after a couple of weeks once the swelling has diminished further.
For more serious fractures, surgery may be required to correct the alignment of the bone. Sometimes a cast alone can be used, or it may be necessary to insert metal pins, a plate and screws.
A fracture may also occur to the scaphoid bone, a small bone in the thumb-side of the wrist. A fracture of the scaphoid is a common sports injury and is usually a result of a fall toward an outstretched arm.
Treatment depends on the location of the break. Fractures at the end of the bone, close to the thumb, usually heal in a few weeks when placed in a cast. If the scaphoid is broken in the middle of the bone or closer to the forearm, healing can be more difficult, requiring a long-arm cast or surgery.
When the scaphoid is broken at the waist or proximal pole, surgery may also be recommended. Screws and wires are used to stabilize the bone so that is can heals. After surgery, the wrist may be put into a cast, however even with surgery these fractures can be difficult to heal.