What Are the Signs of a Hairline Wrist Fracture?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 June 2019
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The signs of a hairline wrist fracture include bruising, pain, and swelling. Also known as stress fractures, they can affect the bones in the wrist or distal forearm. Causes of a hairline fracture in the wrist include repetitive trauma without rest, falls, contact in sports, and car accidents. In addition, people with osteoporosis and women with absent or abnormal periods are prone to wrist fractures.

Sudden or acute pain when the injury occurs is characteristic of a hairline wrist fracture, as is sharp pain that progresses to an achy or dull pain. In addition, the pain usually worsens when attempting to hold objects or when moving the hand or the wrist. Severe bruising may also develop and is caused by blood vessel damage. When blood leaks into soft tissue, bruising occurs and sometimes worsens over the course of a few days. The blood typically gets reabsorbed back into the body, causing it to disappear as days go by.

Swelling is also a symptom of a hairline fracture as the result of excessive fluid build up in the soft tissues. The swelling can be relieved by elevating the wrist above the heart and by applying ice wrapped in a soft cloth to the injury. Bare skin should not be exposed to ice directly because it can cause damage.


A simple X-ray can usually be used to diagnose a wrist fracture. After the diagnosis has been made, the wrist is generally put into a cast and instructions on aftercare are generally given to the patient by the healthcare provider. To relieve pain, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can be taken, which will relieve discomfort and reduce inflammation. If pain does not respond to over-the-counter medications, the healthcare professional may recommend a prescription pain reliever.

A hairline wrist fracture usually heals without incident, but when pain, swelling, or bruising do not disappear, a medical professional needs to be notified. In addition, if the patient experiences fever, chills, nausea, or body aches, he should seek medical attention because these symptoms may be a sign of a soft tissue or bone infection. An infection may require treatment with oral antibiotics; however, if the bone infection is severe, hospitalization and intravenous antibiotic therapy may be necessary.


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Post 3

@bythewell - This is particularly true if there are any symptoms of infection. A girl at my school recently had a bone infection in what was supposed to be a simple fracture and she was in and out of hospital for months. For a while they were worried she would lose her arm.

Even with modern medicine a bone infection is a really serious thing.

Post 2

@Mor - When I was a kid my sister took a fall when she was playing hockey and my father believed she sprained her wrist. She was a really stoic kid and she didn't make a fuss about it, so we didn't take her to the doctor.

That is, until she started crying the next morning because the pain was so bad, and my parents rushed her to the hospital. A quick x-ray later and they realized she actually had a hairline fracture.

The pain is quite a bit worse for a fracture. I don't know if people who haven't had both could tell the difference, but I'd be inclined to just go to a free clinic and make sure if you can't afford any other doctor.

Post 1

A hairline fracture doesn't hurt quite as dramatically as a full break, so it's possible to believe that you've just sprained your wrist, particularly since a lot of the symptoms are the same in both cases.

If you can afford it, it's always a good idea to go to the doctor, even if you think it's just a sprain. If you can't afford to causally go to the doctor, then time is the way to tell the difference. A sprained wrist will generally start to feel better pretty quickly, but if a fractured wrist isn't restrained it will probably get worse.

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