A distal radius fracture—a break near the wrist in the largest forearm bone—is one of the most common injuries of the forearm. The fracture often occurs when a person falls onto an outstretched hand. Other causes include direct impact or axial forces. Treatment depends on such factors as the exact nature of the fracture, your age and health, and previous activity level. Both surgical and nonsurgical approaches are used to treat a distal radius fracture. If the alignment is reasonably correct, a cast is typically recommended to be worn for approximately six weeks before you begin physical therapy. Surgery is usually called for when the bones must be re-positioned to improve their alignment.
It is standard treatment to receive physical therapy for a distal radius fracture—whether you wear a cast or receive surgery. This is because it is considered critical to
- gently get your wrist joint moving comfortably again
- prevent stiffness in your fingers, elbow and shoulder
- ease you back into normal activities
Most patients regain most of their movement if they follow a physical therapy program and aftercare instructions from their doctor. Permanent pain is unlikely, and you can expect to return to normal recreation and work activities. Generally, intra-articular fractures, which can result in stiffness, pain and a risk of developing arthritis, are the most limiting. For these cases in particular, physical therapy can provide the most significant improvement in rehabilitation after a distal radius fracture. While active contact sports should be postponed for approximately four months, we can design an individual program that includes functional activities such as bike riding and swimming. By following a carefully designed physical therapy program, you can expect to recover from a distal radius fracture.