Broken Wrist

You have a broken bone (fracture) in your wrist. This may be a small crack or chip in the bone. Or it may be a major break, with the broken parts pushed out of position. Wrist fractures are often treated with a splint or cast. They take about 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Severe injuries may need surgery. This would be done by an orthopedic surgeon. This is a surgeon who specializes in treating bone, muscle, joint, and tendon problems.

Hand and wrist palm up, showing bones of hand and wrist. Inset shows closeup of fracture in a wrist bone.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Keep your arm elevated to reduce pain and swelling. When sitting or lying down, keep your arm above the level of your heart. You can do this by placing your arm on a pillow that rests on your chest or on a pillow at your side. This is most important during the first 2 days (48 hours) after the injury.

  • Put an ice pack on the injured area. Do this for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day for pain relief. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a thin towel. As the ice melts, be careful that the cast or splint doesn’t get wet. Keep using the ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use the ice pack as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • Keep the cast or splint completely dry at all times. Bathe with your cast or splint out of the water. Protect it with a large plastic bag, rubber-banded or taped at the top end. If a fiberglass cast or splint gets wet, you can dry it with a hair dryer on a cool setting.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or digestive tract bleeding.

  • Don’t put creams, lotions, or objects under the cast. If itching won't go away, call your provider.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. This is to make sure the bone is healing the way it should. If a splint was put on, it may be changed to a cast during your follow-up visit. A cast may need to be changed at 2 to 3 weeks, as the swelling goes down.

If X-rays were taken, a radiologist may look at them. You'll be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to get medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The plaster cast or splint becomes wet or soft

  • The cast or splint cracks

  • Bad odor from the cast or wound fluid stains the cast

  • Itching under the cast or splint continues or gets worse

  • The fiberglass cast or splint stays wet for more than 24 hours

  • Tightness or pain under the cast or splint gets worse

  • Fingers become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • You can’t move your fingers

  • Skin around cast becomes red, swollen, or irritated

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell