Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

A broken wrist or broken hand might cause these signs and symptoms:

  • Severe pain that might worsen when gripping or squeezing or moving your hand or wrist
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Obvious deformity, such as a bent wrist or crooked finger
  • Stiffness or inability to move your fingers or thumb
  • Numbness in your hand or fingers

When to call a doctor

If you think you might have a broken wrist or hand, see a doctor immediately, especially if you have numbness, swelling or trouble moving your fingers. A delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to poor healing, decreased range of motion and decreased grip strength.

Causes

A direct blow or crushing injury to your hands and wrists can break any of the bones in them. Common causes include:

  • Falls. Falling onto an outstretched hand is one of the most common causes of a broken wrist or broken hand.
  • Sports injuries. Many wrist or hand fractures occur during contact sports or sports in which you might fall onto an outstretched hand — such as in-line skating or snowboarding.
  • Motor vehicle crashes. Motor vehicle crashes can cause wrist or hand bones to break, sometimes into many pieces, and often require surgical repair.

Risk factors

Participating in certain sports activities and having the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis can increase your chances of breaking a wrist or hand.

Sports activities

Contact sports and activities that increase your risk of falling can increase your risk of breaking bones in your wrist or hand, including:

  • Football or soccer, especially on artificial turf
  • Rugby
  • Horseback riding
  • Hockey
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • In-line skating
  • Jumping on a trampoline

Complications

Complications of a broken wrist or broken hand are rare, but they might include:

  • Ongoing stiffness, aching or disability. Stiffness, pain or aching in the affected area generally goes away eventually after your cast is removed or after surgery. However, some people have permanent stiffness or pain. Be patient with your recovery, and talk to your doctor about exercises that might help or for a referral to physical or occupational therapy.
  • Osteoarthritis. Fractures that extend into the joint can cause arthritis years later. If your wrist or hand starts to hurt or swell long after a break, see your doctor for an evaluation.
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage. Trauma to the wrist or hand can injure adjacent nerves and blood vessels. Seek immediate attention if you have numbness or circulation problems.
July 12, 2017
References
  1. Wrist fractures. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. http://www.assh.org/handcare/hand-arm-injuries/wrist-fractures. Accessed April 20, 2017
  2. Sebastin S, et al. Overview of finger, hand, and wrist fractures. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 20, 2017.
  3. Scaphoid fracture of the wrist. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00012. Accessed April 20, 2017.
  4. Williams AA, et al. Pediatric hand and wrist injuries. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 2013;6:18.
  5. Petron DJ. Distal radius fractures in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 20, 2017.
  6. Bone health. National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone_Health/default.asp. Accessed April 21, 2017.
  7. Pountos I, et al. Do nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs affect bone healing? A critical analysis. The Scientific World Journal. 2012;2012:606404. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2012/606404/. Accessed May 22, 2017.