What is a Distal Radius Fracture?

15 August 2017  |  John

A distal radius fracture is a break in the radius bone – the largest of the two forearm bones. More commonly as a broken wrist, it’s incredibly painful and can cause bruising and swelling. If you injure your wrist and it’s instantly painful and hangs in an odd way, it is quite possibly a distal radius fracture.

What is the Distal Radius?

The two large bones of the forearm are the radius and the ulna. The radius is the larger of the two bones, and the end closest to the wrist is called the distal end, hence a distal radius fracture.

What Types of Distal Radius Fractures are There?

Breaks in the distal radius almost always happen about one inch from the wrist. However, the breaks can happen in a range of ways:

  • Colles fracture: one of the most common types of fracture, these occur when the broken fragment tilts upwards 
  • Smith’s fracture: where the broken fragment tilts downward; most commonly caused by falls onto flexed wrists 
  • Intra-articular fracture: where the fracture extends into the wrist joint
  • Extra-articular fracture: where the fracture doesn’t extend into the wrist joint
  • Open fracture: where the fractured bone breaks skin
  • Comminuted fracture: fractures where the bone is broken into more than two pieces

What Causes Distal Radius Fractures?

Distal radius fractures are most commonly caused by falling hard onto a solid surface with arms outstretched to break your fall. This can be exacerbated by a range of conditions including osteoporosis, which weakens the bone and makes it more susceptible to breaks.

Distal Radius Fractures Are Commonly Caused By Hard Falls With Arms Outstretched
Hard falls with outstretched arms are the most common causes of distal radius fractures

How Do I Know if I Have a Distal Radius Fracture?

Unlike other wrist injuries or conditions, Distal Radius Fractures can be identified with relative ease. The biggest symptom of a fracture is pain – a lot of pain. If your wrist immediately severely hurts after a fall, there’s a chance you’ve broken your wrist. Other symptoms include:

  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Wrist hangs in an odd or bent way

Because of the serious nature of fractures, it’s vital that you can be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible if you suspect a break in your wrist.

Treatment Options

If a doctor diagnoses you with a distal radius fracture, your treatment options are relatively straightforward. If the bone is in a good position, a plaster cast may be applied to enable healing. If the bone is not in a good position, it may need to be realigned. This can be done with or without surgery, however if surgery is required you may need additional support such as a plate or screws.

Distal Radius Fracture Require A Plaster Cast To Heal
Distal radius fractures require a plaster cast to heal the break, and may require additional support afterwards

Additionally, after a plaster cast is removed, additional support may be needed in the form of a splint or brace.  This helps to further stabilise the bone and aid healing without the bulk and discomfort a plaster cast can cause, making it easier for you to go about your day.

Distal Radius Fracture at Wrist Supports

After your cast has been removed you may still find that your wrist is sore or unstable. Here at Wrist Supports we have a wide range of supports and braces that have been developed to help provide support to those recovering from a Distal Radius Fracture. Selected by experts, these braces help you to get the level of support you need in later stages of recovery.

Visit our Wrist Supports for Distal Radius Fracture to find the brace that’s right for you.


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