Falling is a part of an active life, and hitting the palm on the ground to break your fall could result in a common wrist injury called a Colles’ fracture. A Colles’ fracture can happen in a second by falling while playing sports, skating, riding bikes or horses, or even just a fall while working around the house or job site.
What is a Colles’ fracture?
A Colles’ wrist fracture is one of the FOOSH fractures (Falling On OutStretched Hand), that breaks the end of the radius bone where it meets the wrist bones. Several bones may be affected by this injury if it is severe.
A Colles’ wrist fracture can present in four common ways:
- A bone that comes out of the skin
- A bone that breaks in more than two pieces
- A bone that breaks within the wrist joint
- A bone that breaks but not in the wrist joint
What does a Colles’ fracture look like?
“A Colles’ fracture may hang or be bent at an odd angle, be warm to the touch, be swollen, numb and very painful,” said Advance ER physician Dr. Ronnie Shalev. “The patient will have trouble using the hand or making the grabbing motion.”
How is Colles’ fracture or a FOOSH fracture diagnosed?
Your Dallas Advance ER physician will use our readily-available imaging equipment, typically an X-ray, to determine the position of the injury. The images will be carefully studied to see what bones were affected.
What is the treatment for a Colles’ fracture?
Since this can be a serious fracture that can have complications, surgery is often recommended. At Advance ER, a specialist consultation using our SPECIALIST NOW™ program, can give you an immediate second opinion. Pins or screws may be needed to repair the bones before putting the wrist into a cast, and a specialist may be called upon for this surgery.
“If your fracture is not serious, we may splint it. We may need to do a reduction on it—which means we’ll straighten the bone—then will put a cast on it,” said Dr. Shalev. “Once we get the X-rays done, we’ll know what treatment to prescribe.”
Pain relievers, elevation, rest and ice may be common elements of a Colles’ fracture treatment. Advance ER’s on-site pharmacy can provide you with a pain reliever and other prescriptions.
Finally, physical therapy will likely be recommended after the cast comes off. “Going to your physical therapy appointments is an important step in healing from the Colles’ fracture,” said Dr. Shalev. “You will want to work towards regaining a full range of motion, flexibility and strength in that wrist.”
What are the complications of a Colles’ fracture?
Some complications can include:
- Nerve damage
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Tendon damage
- Poor alignment of broken bone(s)
- Frozen or unusable wrist
- Dull ache or pain that lasts more than 2 years
- How can I prevent a wrist fracture?
Some good prevention tips include:
- Diet rich in calcium – green, leafy vegetables, low-fat yogurt and dairy products, or calcium supplements
- Vitamin D – sunlight, foods such as salmon, or vitamin D supplements
- Wrist guards – wear the guards when playing sports, biking or skating
- Safe falling techniques – learn how to fall forwards and backwards safely, without using the arm or hand to break your fall
- Strength exercises – build up the strength in your wrists to protect them and develop your leg and hip strength to keep you from falling
Dallas Emergency Room Help 24/7
Advance ER is always open to help with your FOOSH injuries and more. If you’ve suffered from a fall and are experiencing pain, come in right away to Advance ER for No Wait access to a board-certified physician.
“If your wrist is swollen, discolored or numb, come to Advance ER immediately. The circulation to your fingers and small wrist bones could be seriously affected, and that requires immediate medical attention,” said Dr. Shalev.