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It is very common to break your wrist as result of a fall, usually when you are stretching out your hand to avoid a hard landing. Your wrist contains eight small bones known as carpals, and of these the scaphoid is the one you are most likely to fracture.
You will usually know if you have a broken wrist as you will be in a lot of pain. You will probably also notice your wrist feels very tender and any type of movement will make the pain worse. However, a scaphoid fracture isn’t always detectable on an x-ray, so you may not get a diagnosis straight away. This means proceeding with caution and perhaps using a good wrist support to avoid making the problem any worse. After a few weeks you will be x-rayed again and this time it will be easier for the clinician to detect if there is a fracture there and you have a broken wrist.
You can try using ice against the affected area, as this is very effective at reducing swelling and acting as pain relief. If you are diagnosed with a broken wrist, then you will be given a plaster cast which immobilises the area and helps the bones to heal. You generally need to wear this for about six weeks, and when it is removed you will be seen by a physiotherapist.
They will work with you to help remobilise your wrist, as well as your shoulders, fingers and thumb on the affected side, as these can become stiff from wearing the cast. You may also be given exercises to do in water (known as hydration therapy), as this can also help to mobilise your joints as well as hydrate your skin, which might feel dry from being encased in the cast.
In a few cases the bones won’t heal simply from being in a cast, and in these instances you will need surgery. The bones are fastened back together using a small screw or piece of wire. You might also have a small graft of bone taken from another area of your body, as this can encourage the bones to knit themselves back together again.
You may well then be advised to wear a wrist support, which is removable. These are quite lightweight and not as heavy as a cast, so you can still wash your wrist and keep the area clean. In terms of trying to prevent a broken wrist, it is our instinct to put our hand down when we fall, so it is hard to avoid, especially if you are engaging in sport. However, you could try wearing a wrist guard, especially if you are snowboarding, which has a very high risk of wrist injury.