Distal Radius Fractures
Distal radius fractures are a common type of injury to the wrist, often resulting from a fall or other traumatic event. The radius bone is one of the two bones in the forearm, and the distal end of the radius is the part closest to the wrist joint. When a person falls onto an outstretched hand, for example, the force can be transmitted through the wrist, causing the distal end of the radius to break.
These fractures are more common in older adults, particularly women, due to changes in bone density that can occur with age. However, they can occur in people of any age and may be associated with sports injuries, car accidents, or other high-impact activities.
Causes of Distal Radius Fractures
Distal radius fractures can be caused by a variety of traumatic events or injuries, including:
Falls: A fall onto an outstretched hand is the most common cause of a distal radius fracture, particularly in older adults.
Sports injuries: High-impact sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, or skateboarding, can also result in a distal radius fracture.
Car accidents: The impact of a car accident can transmit enough force to the wrist to cause a fracture.
Work-related injuries: Certain occupations that involve repetitive or high-force movements, such as construction work or manual labor, may increase the risk of a distal radius fracture.
Osteoporosis: People with osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened bones, are at an increased risk of experiencing a distal radius fracture.
In some cases, a distal radius fracture may occur as a result of a pathologic condition such as a bone tumor or cyst. However, these cases are less common.
Signs and Symptoms of Distal Radius Fractures
The signs and symptoms of a distal radius fracture may include:
- Pain: The most common symptom of a distal radius fracture is pain, which can be moderate to severe.
- Swelling: The wrist may become swollen and tender to the touch.
- Deformity: A visible deformity of the wrist may be present, such as a bump or a visible angulation.
- Limited range of motion: Patients with a distal radius fracture may experience a limited range of motion in the wrist and may have difficulty moving the fingers.
- Numbness or tingling: In some cases, patients may experience numbness or tingling in the fingers or hand.
- Weakness: Weakness in the wrist or hand may also be present.
- Bruising: Bruising or discoloration around the wrist may be present as well.
It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms after a fall or other traumatic event, as a distal radius fracture can be a serious injury that requires prompt treatment.
Treatment for Distal Radius Fractures
Physiotherapy is an important component of the treatment for distal radius fractures. The goals of physiotherapy following a distal radius fracture are to reduce pain and swelling, improve range of motion, and increase strength and function in the wrist and hand. Physiotherapy treatment may include:
Splinting and bracing: Initially, a splint or brace may be used to immobilize the wrist and reduce pain and swelling.
Manual therapy: Manual therapy techniques, such as massage, stretching, and joint mobilization, may be used to help restore range of motion in the wrist.
Exercise therapy: Exercise therapy is an essential component of physiotherapy for distal radius fractures. Exercises may include wrist and hand strengthening exercises, as well as range of motion exercises.
Modalities: Various modalities, such as ice or heat, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation, may be used to reduce pain and swelling.
Patient education: Patients may be given education on how to protect their wrist during daily activities and how to modify certain activities to prevent further injury.
The specific physiotherapy treatment plan will depend on the individual patient’s needs and the severity of their fracture. It is important for patients to work closely with their physiotherapist to ensure that they are progressing safely and effectively towards their recovery goals.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about distal radius fractures please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Sharma S, Cusick L, Rangan A, Dias J. Early active motion versus cast immobilisation after distal radius fracture in an older patient population: a prospective randomised controlled trial. Bone Joint J. 2021 Apr;103-B(4):690-696.