Shattered Distal Radius

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Fell down some stairs and got a Comminuted Intraarticular (in other words, bone shattered at the wrist joint). Thankfully (!!!) only the large bone - Distal Radius, and my left wrist. 5 pieces, put back into place and held there with 3 K-wires (pins).

Had backslab on top for 12 days, plaster cast which goes only 2/3 way round arm, underside only has soft padding - this keeps bones in place but allows for swelling. After that it was changed to a full cast, think it was fibreglass, looked like a bandage but when they wet it before wrapping it on and it dried rock hard within 30 mins, lighter than plaster of paris.

This stayed on for further 3 weeks. I was most surprised to only be in plaster for total 4 1/2 weeks. Initial relief to hear plaster was coming off and pins removed was shortlived.......

Blimey it is painful without the support of the cast - I didn't expect that, though they did say I would get shooting, stabbing and aching pains, I didn't really anticipate to what extent, or that I'd feel like Humpty Dumpty.

Started physio immediately, given mobilisation exercises to do at home for first week, surprised at how RIGID my wrist is, like trying to bend and turn a tree stump. Finger movements not so bad though, but no strength whatsoever.

Supidly thought plaster would come off, little bit of physio...............put it all behind me and drive off to work, all done and dusted in 6-8 weeks, tops. Somehow I don't think that's going to happen, silly me.

Think it's worse when the bone shatters at the joint, can't seem to find a forum with someone who has same experience to share, maybe offer me some reassurance about timescales etc.

If anyone is interested, I got a great product off the internet to keep cast completely dry in bath/shower/pool, good quality sealed plastic with rubber seal - called 'Limbo' £10 +pp £3 fast delivery, hospital gave me the leaflet. Also used a chopstick to disobey instructions not to shove things down the cast and scratch, just used it to give a gentle rub when it was driving me nuts.

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  • Posted

    Apparently only being in a cast for 4 1/2 weeks is quite normal - I initially felt it might have been removed too soon!

    Given 6 different exercises to do by physio. Minimum 10 times each, 3 times per day, for a week. I did the whole routine religeously 4 times per day and sat doing bits and pieces constantly throughout the day. Get a balance between making the wrist/fingers work hard, and not overtiring it.

    First day or two it seems impossible to make anything move properly, I can assure you that it DOES improve over the first week if you put the effort in. Saw Physio again after 8 days and she's pleased with progress, no need to do finger/thumb exercises now, wrist 'twist' has improved and about 85% back to 'normal' (though still sore). I can actually see both my palm and the back of my hand without needing a mirror now. May not get any better improvement than that, there will always be some loss of mobility because of the type of fracture.

    Not so much movement in the bending forwards/backwards of the hand, reasonable but quite a way to go. New set of exercises focus on that and seemed IMPOSSIBLE yesterday. Better at it today though, helped by taking two ibuprofen and 2 paracetamol no doubt!

    One thing I would say, your progress is very much YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. NHS physio doesn't really do much but demonstrate some exercises and give you a diagram sheet to follow, then sends you on your way to get on with it at home for a week.

    When I went back she checked my progress, stretched out my wrist a bit further, then showed me how to do the next exercises & gave me a new diagram sheet. Have to go back after a further week.

    Bit disappointing not to be seen mid week to stretch it further and check I'm doing everything correctly before continuing on my own for the rest of the week. Feels sort of 'physio by numbers'.

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  • Posted

    Twisting my wrist so I can look at the palm of my hand progressed the quickest, have reached the maximum that can be recovered according to physio, so lost about 10% of 'twist ability'. Mild 'stretching' discomfort felt but no pain doing that action.

    Twisting my wrist to see the back of my hand has taken longer, still some discomfort with that manouvre, but it suddenly seemed to twist to a reasonably acceptable level yesterday, probably lost about 3% of 'twist ability'. I think more was achieved as the swelling improved, still needs work and it does tend to 'click' when twisting.

    Bending my hand backwards still needs a lot of work, though definite improvement, it goes about two thirds of the way back compared to my healthy wrist.

    Bending my hand forwards seems to be making the least/slowest improvement........very frustrating. Probably about half what I can achieve with healthy wrist. Just seems to be STUCK.

    Hope I can improve those two (particularly forwards) otherwise I'll be disappointed!!!

    Have added some weights to my bending backwards/forwards - first a tin of tomatoes in a plastic back, graduating to a tin of baked beans, now worked up to a tin of soup weighing 515g. Lets hope that brings better results.

    Also started hot/cold therapy to help get rid of the rest of my swelling. Fill bucket with cold water and one with hot water, a sponge in each. Start by sticking hand, wrist and approx 3\" up forearm into cold for 1-3 mins (it's pretty hard) give sponge frequent squeezes to encourage circulation. Same thing in the hot water. Repeat both once more then finish by returning to the [u:c943121cdb]cold[/u:c943121cdb] once again. All 1-3 mins each time. Do this 2-3 times per day.

    Returning to work tomorrow (mostly keyboard work) and driving with confidence as long as I'm wearing my wrist support with it's brace (can remove that but not ready to just yet). Pulling up the handbrake has been the biggest challenge!

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  • Posted

    Was discharged from physio, to be frank, it was before I felt we'd achieved the maximum mobility I should expect after such a fracture! Didn't expect more than about 90% at best, but feel that on the NHS all I was being offered was \"enough to function\" - quoting physio there.

    Got a second opinion elsewhere - insisted my GP refer me to another clinic. Whilst waiting for appointment I worked hard on my own to improve forward bend of my wrist/hand and it did go a bit further than before (it's so much easier when a physio does it, they can push it further than you can manage yourself, they'll cross much further over your pain barrier than you can do on your own).

    Anyway, the new physio was cross they had not taken 'measurements' at each visit, so improvement could be more easily established on a regular basis. Though less than I'd hoped for, she was of the opinion that I'd pretty much got back all there was, though not as much as I might have hoped for.

    Though still sore in some directions, fairly weak and knuckle/finger joints stiff, I have been instructed to ignore discomfort and use it fully in order to get improve mobility further.

    Physio says I must expect it to be at least a year before I might say \"what broken wrist\"? Swelling finally seemed to settle down a couple of weeks ago, enough for me to confidently increase my wedding ring by 2 sizes.

    Scars from the pins have healed well enough, almost covered by my watch anyway. The 'sore skin' feeling I had has completely gone so I suppose the nerve endings have recovered.

    The one advantage of this experience...........the skin on the hand of the busted side shed, now I've got one hand which looks 5 years younger than the other :lol:

    If this happens to you my advice would be to work HARD on your physio, it will be mostly down to you anyway, on the NHS their input is minimal and you won't get many sessions either. Don't BUY a wrist support with a brace like I did, ask the physio for one, they don't offer but they definitely have a cupboard full. Don't wear it much, only to give you confidence on your first few weeks back in the driving seat.

    Good luck.

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    • Posted

      Hi there I was just reading your post and was wondering how your arm has recovered? I am having similar problems since k wire removal of my hand and with the soreness to touch the skin (obviously nerve related) and I was wondering how long this goes on for? I am 2 weeks after k wire removal - very sore to touch. Hope your fully recovered now
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    • Posted

      Hi there, I broke my wrist 31 Oct 2014. Colles fracture.

      After K wires were removed the pain , soreness, stiffness,

      numbness continued for at least 6 months, I even grew hair on

      my hand! Almost 18 months on the joints in the wrist/ knuckles are

      still stiff and the nerve problem down the thumb is still painful.

      I am hoping this is not what I am going to be left with, I would

      like to think I am in the final stages of recovery, it's taking

      forever. How is your hand doing now?

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    • Posted

      That doesn't sound too good, have you seen a doctor or a physio recently? I detached my hand from my wrist 1yr and 2weeks ago it was fastened back in place via a titanium plate and 10 screws, 7 in my hand side and 3 up my arm. Honestly if I didn't know I had damaged it and by the 5inch scar I could never tell. No pain of note , movement is very free, feels easier to move than my undamaged wrist! Only lost very minimal movement when making stop sign maybes 1to 2% at most. Can do press ups no problem. After my accident it took 6 weeks to begin cycling 30 miles and I was back to cycling 100 mile rides in around 12 weeks. My wrist was so bad when I damaged it I was told it would be 6 months before I would be able to cycle and I would have permanent limited stiff movement. They say it is 2 yrs to fully mend but I would definitely seek professional medical advice.
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  • Posted

    Hi there I have recently broken my wrist same place as you did I broke both bones and shattered distal also I have just come out of plsster and its very stiff I noticed you done yours in 2011 so I was just wondering what its like now has all the stiffness and pain gone?
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  • Posted

    Hi Lee

    Yes, wrist is absolutely fine, totally mobile and bends in virtually all directions like the other one. Doesn't quite bend as much as the other to form the number 7 shape.........but who does that much anyway!!!

    I would stress that you MUST do exercises the physio gives you, and continue on your own once the physio says you needn't visit them any more. It feels like a plank of wood doesn't it, I doubted it would ever 'bend' again, but the exercises definitely helped (though it didn't feel much like it at the time and took a fair while). Everyday living just got it mobile again to a point when I forgot I'd ever broken it.

    Someone told me that when it's a bit cold out I would get an achey feeling in my wrist (a bit like rheumatism), well though I am older that has never happened. I still have scars from where the bones were pinned, but they don't bother me and I show them to people sometimes and pretend I was bitten by a 20ft snake.

    Will take 3-6 months before you feel flexible again, about the 1 year mark you'll be saying what my physio said I'd say......"broken wrist, what broken wrist". Don't worry, though you probably will as I did, but it will be absolutely fine given a bit of time.

    Bummer at the time, specially when the plaster had just come off. I walked around cradling it like a premature baby, terrified someone would bash into me and break it again. Nearly fainted when I forgot about it, dropped a whopping bottle of fabric softener and automatically went to catch it with the newly unplastered arm. OUCH. Be careful, but get it moving. Good luck.

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    • Posted

      Hi jeannette54, I share your experience. I had a comminuted distal radius fracture at my left wrist and i also had 3k pins inside to keep it in place. After 6 weeks from my surgery I had everything removed on Tuesday. Yesterday I went for the first time to see a phisio specialist an after I did the exercises she gave me and realised just how stiff my wrist was I kind of panicked. I can't bend my wrist backwards almost at all. After reading your experience here I relaxed a little, hope it will be my case as well. So thanks alot for shareing and excuse my bad english. You gave me a little hope biggrin
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    • Posted

      jeannette54 has given all of us 'broken wristers' solace I suspect! I just want to add, I hope, a couple of helpful hints: once you're in plaster, and your fingers are swollen and painful -- even though it's the last thing you want to inflict upon yourself, make sure you ask your doctor, or fracture clinic, to give you some exercises for your fingers and shoulder to do while you're in the cast. Physio for the wrist is slow and frustrating, but you get there in the end. By far the most distressing thing is to find out, when you start to use your hand again, is that your shoulder just won't work, and really hurts! 
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    • Posted

      Good point patsy, mine told me to try to clench my fist as best I could given that it was in plaster, as often as possible.  I did that constantly, morning noon & night.
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  • Posted

    This you so much for comforting reply. Your right it does feel a bit of wood.Im a 40 year old builder so like you was thinking it will be bad.Its great to hear that yours is good well it sounds very good considering physio physio physio for me cheers
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  • Posted

    I'm sure yours will get better even faster than mine. I work in an office and it was left wrist (right handed), I'm sure the more manual your job is the quicker flexibility returns.

    If the physio hasn't given you one already (mine didn't, never even knew they had any), buy a wrist support brace.

    Cheap at just over a fiver, and for me it was a godsend for a couple of weeks when I was able to drive, but needed a bit more 'welly' when I was trying to change gear.

    Obviously NOT a good idea to wear it all the time, but on and off or for specific tasks for you at work (for a few weeks) where your wrist still feels a bit sore/weak, it's great.

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  • Posted

    My reply looks like it will be delayed. Had a link to ebay in it (which must be moderator approved) where they sell wrist supports for post injury, with removable metal support. Have a look for Orthotic Neoprene Wrist Brace, great piece of kit for £5.45.
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