“Be careful, it’s icy out there!”
How many times have we said this to a loved one heading outside in the winter? After a light dusting of snow, our driveways, walkways, and parking lots can be treacherous. Accidents can happen in a second: slight slips or one loss of balance and down you go on an outstretched hand. Immediate pain in the hand and/or wrist after this type of fall may indicate a fracture/broken wrist of a small bone in the hand.
Most people know immediately that they need medical attention after a fall of this nature. Pain and swelling become obvious and there may be an inability to use the hand. On some occasions – especially when people have a high pain threshold – people do not seek medical attention right away. If in doubt, head to the ER.
Annoying as a fractured wrist or hand may be at the time, it is really the better of two evils. It is a natural instinct, a built in reflex, for us to raise our hands whenever we are knocked off balance. We do this to protect ourselves from hitting our head, a more vital organ than the wrist. Unfortunately, a fall on an outstretched hand can often result in a fracture of some sort.
EVOLUTION OF THE WRIST
Scientists have studied the changes in wrist bones through the millennia. Physical characteristics in the wrists would probably have been necessary to enable our ancestors to bear weight on their knuckles or even swing through the trees.
As hominids (hom-i-nid – member of primate family including humans) switched from these possible methods of locomotion to walking on two feet, our wrists would have had to adapt to this change. Walking on two feet freed the hands for other uses. Our ancestors were able to use their hands for throwing and clubbing. The wrists must move in specific ways to enable these activities.
For example, when comparing human capabilities to chimpanzee capabilities, chimpanzees do not have the same capacity for extension of the wrists. This could suggest that changes in the wrist occurred to give humans these capabilities. Major changes also occurred in hominid hand structure, which made it possible for ancestors to begin gripping, grasping, and releasing tools with precision. These changes have had a significant impact on behavior and the success of the species.
ANATOMY OF THE WRIST
The anatomy of the wrist is a unique design to allow a high degree of mobility as well as the ability to produce a strong grasp for carrying and manipulating objects. Anyone who has ever had an injury to any part of their upper extremity for any period of time knows the impact of going without the use of one of your hands. The wrist is actually made up of many small joints and this is what allows for the mobility.
Recovery After a Wrist Fracture
- Treatment may consist of a brace or splint for the wrist/hand, a cast, or even surgery depending on the severity of the fracture. Physiotherapy is also usually part of the recovery process and can help in regaining strength.
- It may take up to eight weeks or longer for your wrist/hand to heal.
- Cold therapy can help with pain and swelling of the wrist/hand.
- Be patient!
- Take to your doctor or clinician if you have any concerns.
So, as the icy season approaches remember to be careful and stay safe. If you find yourself with a wrist fracture make sure to call us at Arthritis & Injury Care Centre so we can help you as you recover.