What is a Distal Radius Fracture?
A distal radius fracture happens when one of the two long arms bones (ulna and radius) breaks close to the wrist. Typically, these fractures happen approximately one inch from the end of the bone towards the wrist. The most common distal radius fracture is a Colles Fracture.
When a person falls with an outstretched hand, the tiny bones in the wrist connected to the radius (arm) bone are often fractured. These types of falls or traumatic accidents often result in Colles fractures. Colles fractures are often referred to as distal fractures with dorsal angulation, which essentially means away from the body with upward angulation. This is because the impact of the injury causes the bones to fracture upward.
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Severe blunt force can cause Colles fractures; for example, certain sports and activities are more commonly known to result in Colles fractures, such as martial arts, boxing, skiing accidents, pickleball and falling from a bike or horse. However, some individuals with smaller bones or osteoporosis often suffer from Colles fractures from a stumble and fall situation. The same holds true for children whose bones are still soft. Colles fractures can be quite painful and often cause bruising and swelling to occur rapidly.
Types of Colles fractures include the following:
- Intra-Articular Fracture—Wrist joint break
- Extra-Articular Fracture—Does not extend into the joint
- Open Fracture—The bone is exposed through the skin
- Comminuted Fracture—Multiple fractures within the bone
Common Causes and Risk Factors Associated with Colles Wrist Fractures
Colles fractures are very common in elderly patients that have brittle bones due to osteopenia or osteoporosis. These fractures are also common in children whose bones are softer. When these individuals fall with an outstretched hand, the bones in the wrist are more susceptible to fracture.
Treating a Colles Fracture
Getting prompt treatment for a Colles fracture is essential. If left untreated, the pain and swelling can be overwhelming, and resetting the bone may be necessary. If you wait too long, these can be challenging to achieve optimally.
Ice should be immediately applied when the fracture happens to reduce the pain and swelling. The ice can be applied with a towel or material to act as a barrier between the patient’s skin and the ice. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a hand towel or pillow case works well if you have those items available in your home.
The arm should be elevated above the heart to reduce blood pooling and limit swelling. Make sure the ice is not too heavy on the wrist during elevation.
Taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to reduce pain.
In some cases, Colles fractures can be treated with a brace, splint, or cast. Physical therapy is always essential to properly stretch, strengthen and increase range of motion in the wrist, hand, and arm. Prescription pain medications may be prescribed if the pain is intolerable. Other alternative methods may help reduce inflammation and increase healing, such as PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy.
With severe or complicated fractures, surgery will be advised. During surgery, the bones will be realigned and put back together with pins, plates, and screws. The surgery will correct the fractures, but the healing will take place over the next few weeks to months. A brace or cast will be applied to keep the wrist immobile and allow optimal recovery to take place.
Physical therapy helps recondition the joints, muscles, and bones. Specific exercise and stretches will allow the area to regain strength, range of motion, stabilization, and mobility.
Today more than ever, Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine’s personalized level of care is their top priority. Therefore, they set a high standard of patient care for their in-house physical therapy department. The ability to communicate daily with their physical therapists and clinicians is ideal in orthopedic patient care. Having the in-house physical therapy department allows the physicians to have insight and control over the advanced treatment their patients need and specifically design the best program for recovery.
With decades of experience, at Sforzo | Dillingham | Stewart Orthopedics + Sports Medicine all of our surgeons are board certified and fellowship trained. We offer you the best treatment options and care.
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