A broken wrist is a common injury. According to a study published in 2014 by "Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care," up to 20 percent of bone fractures treated in the emergency department affect the radius -- a large bone in the wrist. Stiffness often occurs after this injury, particularly if you spend time in a cast. Exercises are performed to improve movement and strength in your hand and fingers after a wrist fracture.
Finger exercises, called tendon-gliding exercises, improve your ability to make a fist after a broken wrist. These exercises can often be performed while your wrist is still in a cast. Tendon gliding includes the following types of exercises:
-- Hook fist: Beginning with straight fingers, the last 2 joints in your fingers are bent while keeping your largest knuckles straight.
-- Table top: The large knuckles at the base of your fingers are bent while keeping the small knuckles in your fingers straight.
-- Flat fist: Your large and middle knuckles are bent while keeping the last knuckle straight.
-- Full fist: All knuckles are bent at the same time. While doing this, your fingers can be spread apart and brought together to improve their side-to-side movement.
Exercises improve movement of your thumb after a broken wrist. The thumb is moved in several directions, including up into a hitchhiker's position, out to the side as if grabbing a cup and over toward the bottom of the smallest finger. In addition, opposition exercises -- opposition of the thumb to the finger tips -- are performed by touching the tip of the thumb to each finger individually.
Wrist stiffness almost always occurs after a broken wrist. Once your cast has been removed, your physical therapist will give you specific exercises to reduce this stiffness. In general, exercises include bending the wrist forward, backward and side to side. Forearm rotation into palm-up and palm-down positions is also included. These exercises should be performed as tolerated. They should not cause sharp pain.
Strengthening exercises are performed once your bone has healed. In general, strengthening exercises begin about 6 to 8 weeks after a broken wrist. Finger strengthening can be performed with putty, rubber bands, balls or specific exercise equipment designed to improve the grip. Household items such as a wet washcloth can also be used. Wrist and forearm strengthening are performed with elastic bands, hand weights or household items, such as a can of soup or bottle of water.
Stop exercising and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you experience pain with hand or finger exercises after a broken wrist. Follow your physical therapist's instructions for specific exercises and repetitions for the best outcome.