The primary goal of rehabilitation following a wrist fracture is to help you regain functional use of the hand, wrist and upper extremity. Dr. Scott Wolfe, Orthopedic Surgeon, offers this advice for patients to follow after wrist surgery.
1. Elevate your hand to decrease swelling. Elevation is key to reducing swelling. Therefore, it is critical that an elevated position is maintained throughout the day and at night. Patients should NEVER keep their hand down by their side for a prolonged period of time. The hand needs to be above the level of the heart so that gravity can help move fluid back toward the heart. Use 2-3 pillows to support the arm in the lap when seated, and keep it above the heart level on a pillow or two during sleep. Patients may be instructed to use a sling for elevation, particularly when out in public. However, be aware that over-reliance on a sling may lead to unnecessary elbow and shoulder stiffness.
2. Begin mobilizing fingers as soon as possible to avoid stiffness.
3. Ice to reduce inflammation. Icing the wrist can help relieve pain and inflammation. The therapist will provide advice specific to the injury, but general guidelines are that ice or cold gel packs may be used 3-5 times a day for about ten minutes at a time. Cold gel packs can be found at most local drugstores.
4. Attend physical therapy with a Certified Hand Therapist. CHTs are physical or occupational therapists who have a specialized certification, making them the ideal therapist for any type of injury to the hand.
5. Follow your surgeon’s recommendations for full activity. Be patient, you’ll be back to full activity in due time, don’t rush it!
Conclusion: Restoring Strength and Function after a Fracture
After the first six weeks of therapy, once bone healing is determined to be firm and secure, rehabilitation will focus on the full restoration of strength and function. While types of wrist fractures and their surgical treatments vary, the core principles of fracture rehabilitation are consistent. Following these basic guidelines, a therapist will customize each treatment plan according to the patient’s specific needs.