Treatment for Your Broken Wrist or Forearm

When you have osteoporosis and break your wrist or forearm, your treatment options mainly depend on the kind of fracture you have.

At the base of your hand are eight small bones. This group is right next to the ends of your two forearm bones: the radius and ulna. Along with the ligaments that connect them, they make up your wrist joint.

Your radius and ulna can break at any point along their length. Usually both fracture at the same time. When it happens close to the base of your hand, it's called a broken wrist. If it's farther up the bone toward the elbow, you've got a broken forearm.

How Do I Get It Treated?

Sometimes fractures due to osteoporosis can't grow back together easily, because too much bone is missing. If your doctor thinks your bones may not be stable enough for a cast, he might recommend surgery. 

You may also need an operation if the fracture shattered your bone, or if the broken pieces don't line up right.

Surgery. Your surgeon attaches something to the bone to hold it in place, such as:

  • Metal pins or rods
  • A plate and screws
  • A device outside your body that he connects to your bone through the skin

Treatment without surgery. If the pieces of your bone are lined up correctly, your doctor will put your wrist or arm in a cast. This keeps it still while it heals.

You'll probably have to wear the cast for about 4 to 6 weeks. Forearms can sometimes take up to 3 to 6 months to grow back together.

Recovery

How quickly you recover depends on your bone health. While you heal your doctor will:

  • Help you manage your pain with over-the-counter drugs.
  • Look at your cast or surgical site to make sure everything is dry, clean, and continues to help your bones grow back together.
  • Check on the movement of your fingers and hand. You should be able to move both within a day of surgery or casting.
  • Start some kind of treatment for osteoporosis to prevent future fractures.

It takes a year or more to fully recover from a broken wrist or forearm. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy as you get back to normal.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on May 22, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

International Osteoporosis Foundation: "About Osteoporosis."

News Release, International Osteoporosis Foundation.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Recommendations for Enhancing the Care of Patients with Fragility Fractures," "Distal Radius Fractures," "Adult Forearm Fractures."

Pesce, V. Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism, 2009.

American Society for Surgery of the Hand: "Wrist Fractures -- Distal Radius Fracture."

Pietri, M. Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism, 2007.

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