Treatment

If the broken ends of the bone aren't aligned (displaced), there can be gaps between the pieces of bone or fragments might overlap. Your doctor will need to manipulate the pieces back into position, a procedure known as a reduction. Depending on the amount of pain and swelling you have, you might need a local or general anesthetic before this procedure.

Whatever your treatment, it's important to move your fingers regularly while the fracture is healing to keep them from stiffening. Ask your doctor about the best ways to move them. If you smoke, quit. Smoking can delay or prevent bone healing.

Immobilization

Restricting the movement of a broken bone in your wrist or hand is critical to proper healing. To do this, you'll likely need a splint or a cast. You'll be advised to keep your hand above heart level as much as possible to reduce swelling and pain.

Medications

To reduce pain, your doctor might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever. If your pain is severe, you might need an opioid medication, such as codeine.

NSAIDs can help with pain but might also hamper bone healing, especially if used long-term. Ask your doctor if you can take them for pain relief.

If you have an open fracture, in which you have a wound or break in the skin near the wound site, you'll likely be given an antibiotic to prevent infection that could reach the bone.

Therapy

After your cast or splint is removed, you'll likely need rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy to reduce stiffness and restore movement in your wrist and hand. Rehabilitation can help, but it can take several months or longer for complete healing.

Surgical and other procedures

If immobilization isn't an option, you might need surgery to implant pins, plates, rods or screws to hold your bones in place while they heal. Or a bone graft might be used to help healing. These might be necessary if you have the following:

  • An open fracture
  • A fracture in which the bone pieces move before they heal (unstable or displaced fracture)
  • Loose bone fragments that could enter a joint
  • Damage to the surrounding ligaments, nerves or blood
  • Fractures that extend into a joint

Even after reduction and immobilization with a cast or splint, your bones can shift. So your doctor likely will monitor your progress with X-rays. If your bones move, you might then need surgery.

In some cases, the surgeon will immobilize your fracture by using an external fixation device. This consists of a metal frame with two or more pins that go through your skin and into the bone on both sides of the fracture.