Hand and wrist bones
Your wrist is made up of eight small bones (carpal bones) plus two long bones in your forearm — the radius and the ulna. Each finger consists of one hand bone (metacarpal) and three finger bones (phalanges), while each thumb consists of one metacarpal bone and two phalanges.
A broken hand is a break or crack in one or more of the bones of your hand. This injury can be caused by direct blows or falls. Motor vehicle crashes can cause hand bones to break, sometimes into many pieces, and often require surgical repair.
You may be at higher risk of a broken hand if you participate in contact sports like football or hockey, or if you have a condition in which bones become thinner and more fragile (osteoporosis).
It's important to treat a broken hand as soon as possible. Otherwise, the bones might not heal in proper alignment, which might affect your ability to do everyday activities, such as writing or buttoning a shirt. Early treatment will also help minimize pain and stiffness.
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A broken hand might cause these signs and symptoms:
- Severe pain that might worsen when gripping or squeezing or moving your hand
- Obvious deformity, such as a 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 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.
Hand fractures can be caused by a direct blow or crushing injury. Motor vehicle crashes can cause hand bones to break, sometimes into many pieces, and often require surgical repair.
Your risk of a broken hand may be increased if you participate in sports like football, soccer, rugby, or hockey. Osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones, may also increase your risk of a broken hand.
Complications of a 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 a joint can cause arthritis years later. If your hand starts to hurt or swell long after a break, see your doctor for an evaluation.
- Nerve or blood vessel damage. Trauma to the hand can injure adjacent nerves and blood vessels. Seek immediate attention if you have numbness or circulation problems.
It's impossible to prevent the unforeseen events that often cause a broken hand. But these tips might offer some protection.
Build bone strength
To build strong bones:
- Eat a nutritious diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D
- Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking
- Quit smoking if you're a smoker
Hand fractures can occur when people fall forward onto an outstretched hand. To prevent this common injury:
- Wear sensible shoes
- Remove things you can trip over in your home, such as throw rugs
- Light up your living space
- Have your vision checked and, if needed, corrected
- Install grab bars in your bathroom
- Install handrails on your stairways
- Avoid slippery surfaces, if possible, such as snow- or ice-covered walkways
Aug. 12, 2020