Persistent Wrist Pain Following Distal

Have you broken your wrist and still have experience pain with gripping and twisting activities like pouring a drink or turning a door knob? Did you believe that you have a sprained wrist, as a result?

A common problem from a broken wrist (distal radius fracture) is pain after the fracture has healed. The distal radius is commonly broken because it bears 80% of the force when falling on an outstretched arm. This is why more people break this bone (radius) instead of the other bone in the forearm, the ulna. However, although the fracture occurs at the “thumb side” of the wrist, there is a ligament complex located on the opposite side of the wrist called the triangular fibro cartilage complex (TFCC) that can be injured. Additionally, the distal radius bone can heal shorter than it once was which will ultimately produce more force though the articular disc and TFCC creating more pain.

Studies indicate that 35-50% of all patients with wrist fractures present with problems in the TFCC region. As a result, an individual who has a recent wrist fracture may begin to feel discomfort at the ulnar/pinky side of your wrist after the bone heals and they start to regain motion. People will often complain of clicking, increased swelling, weakness, and lack of motion. They have difficulty with activities such as turning a door knob/key as well as difficulty ironing, scrubbing, performing a push up, Yoga and pouring a drink.
Rehabilitation following a distal radius fracture involves the use of modalities, range of motion and strengthening exercises. How well healed the fracture is (based on x-rays) and when an individual begins physical therapy determine what exercises they should be doing. These exercises may need to be modified by a physical therapist especially when persistent wrist pain is present. Functional recovery for stable fractures without complications can be six months and 1-2 years for complex fractures. Fortunately, the rehab process does not take that long. It is the therapist’s role to educate the patient and assist them in making maximizing their outcomes both in the clinic and home setting. The goal of physical therapy is introduce the patient to all of the available tools and exercises available to manage their symptoms until recovery is complete.

The wrist is very complex and requires careful evaluation to develop a good plan of treatment to achieve maximal functional recovery. If you are experiencing these symptoms and would like to schedule evaluation with our upper extremity team please call Marylou Corcoran Physical and Aquatic Therapy (315) 637-4747.
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