Summer Fun in RecoveryA common wrist injury that often occurs is a distal radius fracture. This happens when the radius bone in the forearm breaks near the wrist joint, typically due to a fall or direct impact. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking appropriate medical attention is vital for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. If you are experiencing wrist pain or suspect a distal radius fracture, it is important to promptly seek medical attention.

Dr. Yaffe, a highly skilled hand-to-shoulder surgeon in the Greater Chicago area, specializes in treating upper extremity conditions and injuries, including distal radius fractures. With his expertise and advanced techniques, he helped countless patients recover from wrist injuries and regain functionality.

Read on to learn more about distal radius fractures, the signs to watch out for, and the treatment options available under the expert guidance of Dr. Yaffe. Gain valuable insights into managing and recovering from this common wrist injury.

Understanding Distal Radius Fracture

A distal radius fracture, also known as a broken wrist, is a common type of injury that occurs when the radius bone breaks near the wrist joint. The radius is one of the two long bones in the forearm, and when it fractures close to the wrist, about 1 inch from the end of the radius bone, it is referred to as a distal radius fracture.

Distal radius fractures are highly prevalent, making them one of the most commonly experienced fractures in the body. This type of fracture is experienced by people of all ages, with studies indicating that it accounts for up to 25% of fractures in children and up to 18% of fractures in older adults.

Types Of Distal Radius Fracture

The wrist is a vulnerable area for fractures, particularly the distal radius, which is located about one inch from the wrist. These fractures can happen at different angles and result in varying amounts of dislocation. Three prominent types of distal radius fractures frequently occur:

  • Colles' Fracture

    This fracture occurs at the end of the radius bone near the wrist joint. It is typically caused by a direct shock to the palm, such as breaking a fall with an outstretched hand. Colles' fracture results in a complete fracture of the radius bone while leaving the wrist joint unaffected. It is the most common type, accounting for about 90% of all distal radius fractures.

  • Smith's Fracture

    This fracture occurs when the broken end of the radius bone is angled downwards towards the wrist joint. It is often caused by a strike or collision to the back of the wrist, such as falling backward or landing on a bent wrist. Smith's fracture accounts for about 5% of all radial and ulnar fractures combined.

  • Barton's Fracture

    Barton's fracture involves the extension of the broken end of the radius bone into the wrist joint itself. It is commonly caused by a fall on an outstretched wrist. This type of fracture is a compression injury that may require further evaluation with imaging techniques like MRI to assess any potential damage to ligaments or soft tissues in the wrist.


A distal radius fracture can happen to anyone, irrespective of their age or bone health. However, the cause and the severity of the fracture can vary based on certain factors:

  1. 1. Falls: A fall onto an outstretched arm is the most common cause of a wrist fracture. This can occur during daily activities, sports, or accidents. The impact from the fall is absorbed by the wrist, leading to a potential fracture.
  2. 2. Osteoporosis: This is a condition that weakens bones, making them more prone to fractures. People with osteoporosis are at a higher risk of a distal radius fracture, as their weakened bones may not be able to withstand even a minor fall
  3. 3. Severe Trauma: High-impact incidents such as motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents can also lead to wrist fractures. In these scenarios, even people with healthy bones can sustain a fracture if the force of the trauma is severe enough.

Signs and Symptoms

Aside from the typical symptoms of pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected hand or wrist, there are some other signs and symptoms that may indicate a distal radius fracture.

If you're wondering whether you have it or not, here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • A visible bump or deformity on the wrist
  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers or hand
  • Inability to grip objects firmly
  • Difficulty rotating the wrist
  • Bruising or discoloration around the wrist joint

It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to receive proper diagnosis and treatment if you experience any of these symptoms.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Upon examination, Dr. Yaffe will use imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI to confirm a diagnosis of a distal radius fracture. From there, the appropriate treatment plan can be determined based on the severity and type of fracture.

Treatment options may include:

  • Non-Surgical Treatments

    • Immobilization: If the distal radius fracture is in a good position, a splint or cast may be applied. This often serves as a final treatment until the bone heals.
    • Closed Reduction: For fractures where the bone is slightly misaligned, doctors may manually manipulate the bone back into place and then apply a cast..
  • Surgical Treatments

    • Open Surgery: For severe fractures, open surgery may be necessary. In this procedure, an incision is made near the fracture site, and the bones are repositioned. Plates, screws, or pins may be used to hold the bone fragments in place during healing.
    • External Fixation: This procedure involves inserting pins or screws into the bone above and below the fracture site. These pins are connected to a metal bar outside the skin, holding the bones in place while they heal.

    The choice between non-surgical and surgical treatment for a distal radius fracture depends on the severity of the fracture. It is important not to wait until the fracture becomes complicated and to consult with a doctor promptly for an accurate assessment and appropriate treatment recommendation.

  • Home Care Treatment

    Aside from following the prescribed treatment plan, there are steps you can take at home to aid in the healing process and manage pain. These include:

    • Resting your injured wrist and hand as much as possible
    • Applying ice packs or cold compresses to reduce swelling and pain
    • Elevating your arm above heart level to alleviate swelling
    • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers as recommended by your doctor
    • Performing gentle range of motion exercises once cleared by your doctor to prevent stiffness and improve mobility

    Following these treatment measures can help promote healing and provide relief from discomfort while the fracture heals. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions and avoid any activities that may aggravate the injury or slow down the healing process.

Recovery Time for Distal Radius Fractures

The recovery time for a distal radius fracture can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the chosen treatment option. It typically takes around 3 months for most distal radius fractures to heal completely, allowing you to resume all activities. However, it may take up to 1 year to achieve full recovery from these injuries.

Risk Factors

While anyone can sustain a distal radius fracture, certain risk factors may increase the chances of experiencing this type of injury. These include:

  • Age: Older adults have a higher risk due to weaker bones and an increased risk of falls.
  • Osteoporosis: A condition that causes bones to weaken and become more prone to fracture.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to experience a distal radius fracture due to differences in bone density and structure.
  • Repetitive stress activities: Engaging in activities that put constant strain on the wrist, such as playing tennis or using hand tools, can increase the risk of a distal radius fracture.
  • Falls: Falling onto an outstretched hand is a common cause of this type of injury, making older adults and individuals with balance issues more susceptible.

Prevention Tips

While some accidents and injuries are unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of suffering a distal radius fracture. These include:

  • Wearing wrist guards or protective gear while participating in sports or activities that involve heavy impact on the hands and wrists.
  • Avoiding falls by using handrails, maintaining good balance, and wearing appropriate footwear with adequate traction.
  • Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to promote strong bones.
  • Engaging in regular strength training exercises to improve bone density and muscle strength.
  • Be cautious and aware of your surroundings to avoid potential hazards that could lead to a fall or injury.

It is also important to listen to your body and seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of a distal radius fracture. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help prevent complications and improve healing time.

To ensure a full recovery, be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Yaffe if you suspect a distal radius fracture. Follow all recommended treatments and care for proper healing. Remember, prevention is key, so take care of your bones and wrists to avoid future injuries.

The Expert Care for Distal Radius Fractures

Accurate and timely diagnosis of a distal radius fracture is essential for a successful recovery. If you experience intense pain, swelling, or limited movement in your wrist, it is important to seek prompt medical evaluation. Early intervention not only reduces long-term complications but also expedites your recovery process, allowing you to return to your daily routine as quickly as possible. Don't let potential injuries hinder your well-being - address them promptly and effectively.

Dr. Mark Yaffe is a respected orthopedic hand surgeon based in Chicago. He specializes in treating distal radius fractures and provides valuable insights into innovative surgical techniques. His commitment to improving patient care and advancing medical knowledge in this field highlights the significant impact that experts like Dr. Yaffe can have on your overall health.

Don't let wrist pain limit your lifestyle. Consult with Dr. Mark Yaffe today for early diagnosis and treatment that can greatly impact your healing process and overall well-being. Your health is our top priority. Schedule your appointment now.

FAQs for Distal Radius Fractures

Can a distal radius fracture affect my daily activities?

Depending on the severity of the fracture, a distal radius fracture may limit your ability to perform certain daily tasks, such as driving, cooking, or typing. It is important to follow your doctor's recommendations for modifying your activities during the healing process to avoid re-injury.

Will I need physical therapy after a distal radius fracture?

Depending on your individual healing process and treatment plan, physical therapy may be recommended to help restore strength and range of motion in your wrist. Your doctor will assess your progress and determine if physical therapy is necessary for your specific injury.

What should I do if I notice any changes in my wrist after a distal radius fracture?

If you experience any new or worsening symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or numbness in your wrist after a distal radius fracture, it is important to consult with your doctor for further evaluation and treatment. Changes in your symptoms may indicate a potential complication and should be addressed promptly.

Will I regain the full function of my wrist after a distal radius fracture?

With proper treatment and rehabilitation, most patients can expect to have the full function of their wrist restored within several months. However, some cases may require longer recovery times. It is important to continue following your doctor's recommendations for exercises and physical therapy to aid in the healing process and regain the full function of your wrist.

Is it normal to experience pain after a distal radius fracture has healed?

Some mild discomfort may be expected during the healing process of a distal radius fracture. However, if you experience persistent or worsening pain after your injury has healed, it is important to consult with your doctor for further evaluation and treatment. This could be a sign of a potential complication that needs to be addressed.