Broken Hand – Symptoms, Recovery, Healing Time

A broken hand refers to a crack or break in one of the several bones inside the hand. The most common type of broken hand affects the wrist when in the process or trying to break a fall, individuals land hard on an outstretched hand.

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The risk factors which can increase the vulnerability to developing a broken hand range from involvement in some sports like soccer, American football, snowboarding or skiing, to presence of osteoporosis, a disorder in which bones turn thinner and more frail

It is essential to treat a broken hand at the earliest instance possible. Otherwise, the bones of a broken hand may not experience healing in correct alignment, which can affect one’s capability to carry out the daily activities, like buttoning a short or grasping a pen. Early treatment will also ensure the minimization of stiffness and pain.

Broken Hand Symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms of a broken hand are listed below:

  • Intense pains which has a tendency to elevate while squeezing or griping
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to move the thumb or the fingers, or stiffness
  • Noticeable deformity, like a crooked finger or bent wrist
  • Coldness or numbness in the hand

A few complications arising out of a broken hand are mentioned below:

  • Continuous aching, stiffness or disability: Pain, stiffness or aching in the region affected by a broken hand usually tends to go away with a month or two after the removal of the cast, or post surgery. However, there may be some permanent aching or stiffness if the injury was extreme. Additionally, some months may pass by before one is able to regain the capability to use the fingers and hand normally. It is important to be patient with the recovery process. One may also consult the health care provider about exercises which may help, or for getting a reference for occupational or physical therapy.
  • Damage of the blood vessels or nerves: Injuries associated with a broken hand can traumatize nearby blood vessels and nerves. It is vital to immediately consult a doctor if one notices circulation difficulties or numbness
  • Osteoarthritis: Fractures that stretch to the joints may lead to development of arthritis many years later. Hurting or swelling of the hand post a break requires medical diagnosis and evaluation.

Causes of a broken hand

A crushing trauma or a direct blow to the hands can cause any one of bones in them, to break. Some of the usual causes include:

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  • One of the most common causes of a broken hand is falling hard onto an extended hand.
  • High speed injuries that can happen during motor vehicles accidents may cause the bones in the hands to fracture or break into several pieces. Such cases of broken hands can be repaired only via surgery
  • A majority of the hand fractures while participating in contact sports or in sports wherein one may fall onto an extended hand. For example, snowboarding or in-line skating. Fractures of the finger commonly occur while playing basketball, baseball or football

Taking part in some sports activities or presence of certain medical conditions may increase the proneness to experiencing a broken hand.

  • Some of the sports activities include the following:
    • Basketball
    • Rugby
    • Football
    • In-line skating
    • Wrestling
    • Skiing
    • Hockey
    • Snowboarding
    • Some of the medical conditions that increase the risk to a broken hand include:
      • Bone disease
      • Osteoporosis
      • Calcium deficiency

Treatment of a broken hand (recovery)

If the ends of a broken bone are not aligned correctly, then the doctor will have to adjust the pieces back into their correct positions. This process is known as fracture reduction. As per the severity of swelling and pain, a physician may prescribe a sedative, a muscle relaxant or even general anesthesia, before carrying out the procedure.

Treatment methods of a broken hand include the following:

  • Medications: The inflammation and pain may be alleviated with over the counter pain killers. Intense pain can be eased with the use of opioid drugs like codeine.
  • Immobilization: Limiting the motion of a broken bone in the hand is vital to complete healing. This can be done with the help of a cast or a splint.
  • Therapy: After the removal of the split or the cast, the broken hand may need to undergo physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises to decrease stiffness and restore motion of the affected hand. Such therapies can help, but it must be noted that complete healing of a severely broken hand may take many months and even longer.
  • Surgery: A majority of broken hand cases are resolved by putting the affected limb in a cast and immobilizing it. However, in certain cases surgery may be required to implant internal fixation gadgets like screws or rods, plates, or bone grafts to preserve correct position of the bones while healing. Such surgical intervention may be essential in the following cases:
    • Multiple fractures
    • Loose fragments of bone which may enter a joint
    • A displaced or unstable fracture
    • Damage to the adjacent ligaments
    • A fracture which is caused by a crushing accident
    • Fractures that stretch into a joint

It may be noted that healing time of a broken hand is dependent on many factors such as loss of tissue or not, involvement of a joint or not, effective following of instructions by the patient and occurrence of infections or not.

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