Wrist Injury: Scaphoid Fracture

What is it?

The scaphoid is located in the wrist, situated near the thumb, and connects the radius to the hand. When the scaphoid is injured is it commonly misdiagnosed as the pain can present as minor even when the bone has been broken.  As a result of this and low blood supply to the bone, they often have more complications when healing.

How does it happen?

Often occurs as a result of a fall on an outstretched hand or a direct blow to the wrist. The scaphoid injury has increased prevalence amongst young adults compared to children and the elderly.

What are the symptoms?

  • Wrist pain
  • Bruising or discolouration of the skin proximal to the injured area
  • Difficulty moving the wrist or hand

After the initial swelling subsidises there may be increased pain at the base of the thumb when gripping objects. Patients may also incur a deep, dull ache that is hard to soothe.

How is it diagnosed?

If you feel you have sustained a scaphoid fracture you should book to see your GP or physiotherapist so that they can refer you for an X-ray. Due to the size of the bone, the fracture doesn’t always present on an X-ray, therefore if your medical team still suspect a fracture they may send you for another x-ray, MRI or CT after a week to be certain. The fracture can often be treated without surgery, however for more serious cases surgical intervention may be recommended.

How can physiotherapy help?

To treat the injury, your doctor is likely to prescribe a brace, often for a minimum of 6 weeks, to reduce mobility at the wrist and aid in the healing process, however this time period varies depending on which pat of the bone has broken. After the splint is removed, there is often residual pain, stiffness or muscle weakness as a result. Your physiotherapist can help form an individualised program in order to restore any deficits as well as resolve subsequent shoulder pain or headaches that may have occurred as a result of altered biomechanics.

None of the information in this newsletter is a replacement for proper medical advice.

Always see a medical professional for advice on your injury.

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