Distal radius fracture; Broken wrist
A Colles wrist fracture is caused by a forceful injury to the wrist. This may occur due to:
Having osteoporosis is a major risk factor for wrist fractures. Osteoporosis makes bones brittle, so they need less force to break. Sometimes a broken wrist is the first sign of thinning bones.
You will likely get a splint to keep your wrist from moving.
If you have a small fracture and the bone pieces do not move out of place, you will likely wear a splint for 3 to 5 weeks.
If your break is more severe, you may need to see a bone doctor (orthopedic surgeon). Treatments may include:
With a more severe break, you will wear a cast for about 6 to 8 weeks. You may need a second cast if the first one gets too loose as the swelling goes down.
To help with pain and swelling:
For pain, you can take over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can buy these pain medicines without a prescription.
For severe pain, you may need a prescription pain reliever.
Follow your provider's instructions about elevating your wrist and using a sling.
Exercising your fingers, elbow, and shoulder is important. It can help keep them from losing their function. Talk with your provider about how much exercise to do and when you can do it. Typically, the provider or surgeon will want you to start moving your fingers as soon as possible after the splint or cast is put on.
The initial recovery from a wrist fracture can take 6 weeks or more. You may need physical therapy .
You should start working with a physical therapist as soon as your provider recommends. The work may seem hard and at times painful. But doing the exercises you are given will speed your recovery.
It can take anywhere from a few months to a year for your wrist to fully recover its function. Some people have stiffness and pain in their wrist for the rest of their life.
After your arm is placed in a cast or splint, see your health provider if:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. OrthoInfo: Distal Radius Fractures (Broken Wrist). Updated March 2013.
Blakeney W. Stabilization and treatment of Colles' fractures in elderly patients. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2010;5:337-44. PMID: 21228899
Prawer A. Radius and ulna fractures. In: Eiff MP, Hatch RL, eds. Fracture Management for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 6.
Last reviewed on: 5/4/2015
Reviewed by: Dennis Ogiela, MD, orthopedic surgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation, Danbury Hospital, Danbury, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.