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Any individual can fracture his or her wrist after suffering a direct blow, falling awkwardly on the hand, or succumbing to a disorder like osteoarthritis. In most cases, a broken wrist causes immediate pain, swelling, and a loss of flexibility in the joint. Doctors strongly suggest that people who suspect they have suffered a wrist fracture visit an emergency room or primary care provider as soon as possible to obtain a proper diagnosis and find out about treatment options. A physician can usually treat a wrist fracture by fitting the hand in a cast and prescribing medication to manage pain and inflammation. Corrective surgery may be necessary if bones become severely damaged or displaced.
An individual who suffers an injury can temporarily treat a wrist fracture by immobilizing the joint with a splint or sling. A splint can be made by using tape to secure any rigid object that reaches from the elbow and to the hand. Slings wrap around the shoulder and hold the broken wrist in front of the body at a horizontal angle. Keeping the joint immobile usually is important to prevent additional bone and cartilage damage. Medical care at the emergency room or a doctor's office typically should be sought to effectively treat a wrist fracture.
Doctors usually can evaluate the type and severity of a wrist fracture by physically examining the joint and taking x-rays. Professionals must assess the location and extent of the break before deciding how to treat a wrist fracture. They look for possible nerve damage and determine if bones have moved out of alignment. Oral anti-inflammatory and pain medications may be administered during the evaluation process to relieve immediate symptoms.
In cases of small fractures where the bones have not been displaced, treatment usually entails placing the wrist in a hard plaster cast or brace. Doctors take care to ensure that the hand and wrist are kept in an appropriate position during casting to ensure that the bones heal together properly. Braces and casts are usually worn for eight to 12 weeks, then removed for further evaluation. Patients are usually instructed to engage in careful home exercises or attend physical therapy sessions to regain strength and flexibility after their cast is removed.
Additional measures are needed to treat a wrist fracture that compresses a nerve or displaces bones. A skilled doctor can physically force bones back into place before casting the wrist. Patients may need to undergo corrective surgery if they suffer a bad fracture. An orthopedic surgeon can set bones in place with metal pins and screws, and repair tissue damage to tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and nerves. Following surgery, a patient usually needs to wear a cast for several weeks and will receive several follow-up evaluations to ensure the wrist is healing properly.
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