The Hand Center welcomes Jill Putnam, MD to the practice! Dr. Putnam will start September 1st.

I Broke My Wrist. Do I need surgery?

A broken wrist is extremely painful — and inconvenient. You use your wrist for many activities that are part of your daily life, from scrolling on your cell phone to eating dinner. 

With a broken wrist, you have to learn how to function with only one working wrist. You may even have to work with your opposite wrist if you broke the one on your dominant hand.

You might assume that a broken wrist always needs surgery because that’s the outcome for many broken bones. However, surgery isn’t necessary in all cases. Sometimes your wrist heals on its own. 

The providers at The Hand Center explain more about broken wrists, how your bone may heal on its own, and when you need surgery. 

The basics about broken wrists

Whether you broke your wrist from a slip and fall or had a sporting mishap, the pain of a broken wrist is almost instantly recognizable. Chances are, you’ll go to the emergency room, where they’ll take some X-rays and diagnose you with a broken wrist. Then you’re referred to an orthopedic specialist for follow up.

The X-rays show the extent of the damage from your wrist break. There are four bones in the wrist: the ulna, the scaphoid, and two bones of the radius. The radius makes up the long bones in your forearm. The most typical broken wrist injury is a break to the end of the radius.

How broken wrists heal on their own

If your wrist has an uncomplicated break, such as at the end of the radius, it may heal on its own. You just need time and to immobilize your wrist to allow it to heal. 

In these cases, the ER doctor typically resets your broken bone, which can be quite painful. You will likely receive painkillers before they reset the bone.

Some of the treatments we use for a broken wrist include:

Once your bone sufficiently heals, you may need additional physical therapy to regain your range of motion and restore the former strength in your wrist. Physical therapy generally lasts about six weeks after the bone heals. Although it can initially be uncomfortable, physical therapy provides lasting pain relief.

When you’ll definitely need surgery

If your broken wrist is more complicated than just breaking the end of the radius, you’ll likely need surgery to repair it. If the radius was broken higher up on the bone or if you broke both the radius and ulna, it may not heal on its own.

The typical surgery to repair a badly broken wrist is an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. We may use titanium plates or pins to fix the bones in the proper place.

The rest of the healing procedure is similar to that of less complicated wrist breaks. You’ll wear a cast or splint for 6 to 8 weeks and we’ll do regular X-rays to see how well your bones are healing. Once the cast or splint comes off, physical therapy is often recommended so you can regain normal use of your wrist.

If you broke your wrist, contact us to learn about your road to recovery. Call one of our offices in Hartford, Glastonbury, Tolland, and Bloomfield, Connecticut, or request an appointment online today.

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