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What is a Distal Radius Fracture?

Below your elbow are two bones that make up your forearm called the radius and the ulna. The radius is the shorter of the two bones located on your thumb side.  This bone allows you to turn your palms to face upwards for easier lifting and carrying of items.  A distal radius fracture is a common injury to this bone and is often the result of falling on an outstretched hand.


Treatment for a distal radius fracture

Treatment of a distal radius fracture depends on various factors. Those factors include if the bones shifted when the injury occurred, if there are multiple fractures in different places, whether or not it is your dominant hand, and the type of work or activity level you had before your injury.

In most cases, a splint or a cast is applied for an average of six weeks to enable the bone to heal.  Your primary care physician may offer occupational therapy treatment once the cast is removed.

Sometimes, depending on the severity of the break, surgery is performed. Typically most individuals are placed in a splint for up to four weeks with your orthopedic physician recommending occupational therapy for early mobilization.

Why occupational therapy?

With prolonged time in a cast or a splint, a patient’s wrist and forearm become very stiff and weak.  You may notice increased difficulty in lifting your wrist, turning keys or opening doors, or using silverware.  You may also see that it is increasingly painful or difficult to lift and carry items without dropping them or write your name.  An occupational therapist can provide you with an assessment focused on specific pain management techniques, improving the mobility of the wrist and hand, and specific strengthening activities and exercises designed to get you back to the activities you want and need to do.

Therapy services are available in Vinton (at the hospital) and Atkins (Atkins Family Medical Clinic). If you have questions or would like information on how occupational therapy can improve your recovery times, call 319-472-6372.

You can also learn more when you visit our Therapy Services page. For those in need of a primary care provider, please visit our Find a Provider page.

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