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Recovering From Two Broken Wrists: My Story

My name is Ricardo, and I am from Portugal. In 2007, I broke both wrists after falling from a building. This is my story.

broken-wrists

The reason I wrote this article is that I broke both my wrists in a terrible accident in 2007 and found very little information online about injuries like mine. I decided to write about what happened to me, in order to help other people in my situation. I hope you find this useful.

Below you'll be able to read more about my story, but first, some information on the healing time of wrist fractures.

Broken Wrist Recovery Time

Keep in mind that there are many different kinds of wrist fractures, so this is only a very rough guide. Your experience may differ significantly.

 KidsAdults

Time for bone to fully mend

3 - 10 weeks, depending on severity of fracture

8 weeks or longer

Length of time in cast

For a half-cast, 3 - 4 weeks; for a full cast, 6 - 10 weeks

6 - 8 weeks, depending on fracture

Stiffness and immobility after removal

Joint will be stiff 2 - 3 weeks after cast is removed

Depending on the case, pain and stiffness will persist for several months and possibly years

Physical therapy?

Usually not needed

Likely needed, depending on the fracture

How Long Will Healing Take?

If you're reading this article, you probably want to know how long it takes for a broken wrist to heal.

Generally, recovery for adults takes about six to eight weeks (shorter for children and longer for the elderly or for more severe fractures).1 Everyone's situation is different. My recovery took longer than most (obviously) due to the severity of my injury (you can read about my story down below).

Recovery can mean different things, however. Though the bones may be healed at eight weeks, full recovery could be a much longer and difficult process, especially for adults and older adults. You should expect (depending on the severity of your injury), a huge reduction in mobility and a lot of stiffness. You will have to work hard in order to regain all of the use of your hand and wrist, but don't give up! It will be worth it. See the comments section to learn about other peoples' experiences and ask your own questions.

Here are some more details:

  • The plaster cast will stay on until the bone has healed, but the exact length of healing time depends on the type of fracture, whether it has damaged the surrounding tissues, and the age of the patient.
  • A young child who broke his or her wrist may need to wear a cast or removable splint for just two to three weeks. For older people or more complicated fractures, a wrist injury can take a lot longer to get back to normal and stiffness is extremely common.
  • Be sure to follow instructions on how to take care of your cast. Most importantly, don’t get it wet. The orthopaedic doctors will decide when you can take the cast off and when you can return to normal activities or work.
  • Your arm is often stiff and weak after being in a cast. Physiotherapy can be useful to help build up strength in the arm muscles and restore full movement, as in my case. However, this is rarely needed for children (guess I’m not a kid anymore!)
  • There’s a higher chance of re-breaking or cracking the bone once the plaster is removed, especially in children, so kids should avoid trampolines, bouncy castles, soft play areas, and contact sports for a further four to six weeks to be safe.2
  • Also, you shouldn’t drive in a cast. Talk to your doctor about when you can drive again.3
When will you get back to doing the things that you love (like playing piano)?

When will you get back to doing the things that you love (like playing piano)?

When I Can Resume Normal Activities?

Everyone wants to know when and if they can return to their former activities after suffering from a broken wrist. This is a great question which seems simple but actually has a complex answer.

Most patients do return to all of their former activities, but what happens in your case depends on the nature of your injury, the kind of treatment you and your doctors decide on, and how your body responds to the treatment.

You’ll need to discuss your case with your doctor for specifics, but in general most of the following are true:4

  • Most patients have their cast taken off within six to eight weeks.
  • If recommended by the doctor, patients will start physiotherapy within a few days or weeks after surgery, or right after the last cast is taken off.
  • Most patients will be able to resume light activities such as swimming or working out the lower body within a month or two after the cast is taken off, or after surgery.
  • Most patients can resume vigorous physical activities, such as skiing or football, between three and six months after the injury.
  • Almost all patients will have some stiffness in their wrist, which will generally diminish in the month or two after the cast is taken off or after surgery. Wrist flexibility will continue to improve for at least two years (this is for adults).
  • You should expect your recovery to take at least a year, and most will still feel some pain during vigorous activities for about that long. You should also expect residual stiffness or aches for two years or possibly permanently, especially for high impact injuries (such as motorcycle crashes), or if you are over 50 or have some osteoarthritis.
  • The good news is that the stiffness is usually minor and may not affect the overall function of the arm. Remember that these are general guidelines and may not apply to you and your fracture. Ask your doctor for specifics in your case.

Timeline of Surgeries and Recovery After I Broke My Wrists

WhenWhat HappenedHow My Wrists Felt

Day of the accident

Emergency surgery: Doctors fixed both wrists with titanium plates and screws and put an external fixation on right wrist that was attached to both the radius and forefinger metacarpal bones by four screws, two in each bone

Due to morphine, I have no memory of pain during the first week. It was only after returning to Portugal (and having the morphine stopped) that the pain showed up, and what a show it was :/. I had to take some painkillers like algimate and tramadol but soon realized they had serious side effects and haven't taken any chemical drugs since.

Two months after accident

External fixation was removed and I started daily physiotherapy. Started to see good results with physiotherapy

For me, physiotherapy was the most painful part of the process. But every session I knew what was going to happen, and I went anyway. You can call me masochist but I learned to love and embrace the pain resulting from all the hard work.

Two months and one week after accident

Got a spike removed because it was starting to poke through skin

I'm not sure if what I felt when they took the metal pin out was really pain. Perhaps I can call it mental pain because it felt strange to watch the guy pulling a metal spike from my skin like a mechanic working on some vehicle. It was just a strange feeling.

Seven months after accident

Surgery to remove titanium plates from both wrists and get a new one on my right wrist to keep it from moving incorrectly; cut distal end from right cubitus bone to allow wrist to rotate

It's not easy to explain what went through my head during this time — perhaps only those who have gone through it can understand. There are too many things to even start counting.

Two years and three months after accident

Surgery to add two titanium plates to left wrist to correct left hand's position, did not improve mobility

At this time I was much more adapted to my new reality and my thoughts about it were much more positive forward-looking. My pain was also under control.

Four years after accident

Able to read, write, and ride my bike almost like I could before the accident

What can I say!? I guess I was and am a good patient. I tried to study myself like I never did before and I now know and understand myself much better.