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Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Wrist

author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Wrist
Woman with wrist in cast Photo Credit: russaquarius/iStock/Getty Images

Wrist fractures are common injuries affecting people of all ages. These injuries often occur from a fall on an outstretched arm or sports-related accident. Wrist fractures are sometimes obvious -- but not always. Common signs and symptoms to look for include swelling, joint deformity and pain. Numbness and tingling in your fingers or hand may also be a tip-off.

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Doctor wrapping man's wrist
Doctor wrapping man's wrist Photo Credit: vadimguzhva/iStock/Getty Images

Swelling typically occurs immediately after wrist fracture and may worsen over a few days. It usually decreases with time but may take several months to resolve completely. Redness and bruising may also develop. Swelling in your wrist and fingers may cause stiffness, limiting your wrist movement and your grip strength. A broken wrist may cause your wrist to appear deformed as well. You may notice a large bump on the back of your wrist, or your hand may be tilted to the side.


Football player holding a bandaged wrist
Football player holding a bandaged wrist Photo Credit: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Wrist fractures usually cause sharp pain at the time of the injury that may worsen when you try to move your wrist or fingers. Pain typically decrease within a few days, though you will likely have intermittent pain for several months as your wrist heals. Nerves traveling through your wrist can be damaged due to trauma or compression as your wrist swells. Damage to the nerve in the middle of your wrist may cause numbness and tingling in your thumb and all fingers except your pinky. Damage to the nerve on the pinky side of your wrist causes these symptoms in the outer half of the ring finger and the pinky.

When to See a Doctor

Doctor examining patient's wrist
Doctor examining patient's wrist Photo Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have a wrist fracture. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

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