Treating a wrist fracture


Snowy, freezing Midwestern winters can often result in nasty spills on the ice. Most people’s reaction is to break a fall with their hands. Unfortunately, doing so can often result in a wrist fracture.

There are many other reasons for a wrist fracture, however.

“Wrist fractures are caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand, either from tripping, or from a height,” said Dr. Timothy Havenhill, a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with Centegra Physician Care-McHenry County Orthopedics. “They can also be caused during a car accident or from a forceful twisting, such as from a drill when it catches.”

A wrist fracture can have different symptoms.

“Sometimes a wrist fracture is obvious, as there is a deformity where your one wrist does not match the other,” Havenhill said. “Other times, you can have swelling and persistent pain that lasts more than a day. This also can be an indication that there is an underlying wrist fracture.”

There are many factors that come into play when considering how best to treat a wrist fracture, including age, activity level and how well or poorly aligned the bone fragments are, Havenhill said. Nonsurgical treatment usually consists of placing a cast on the wrist. This may include pushing on the fracture fragments into proper position before placing the cast.

Other situations require surgery, depending on the extent of the damage.

“Surgical treatment may involve the placement of pins, plates and screws that hold the fractured fragments in the appropriate position while the fracture heals,” Havenhill said.

After healing takes place, some patients may not need any formal rehabilitation to return to full function.

“However, many patients would benefit from a formal rehab program under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist, an occupational therapist or certified hand therapist,” Havenhill said.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Timothy Havenhill, visit

Centegra Health System : 4309 Medical Center Drive, McHenry, IL 60050 :

815.338.6600 :

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