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10 Simple Broken Wrist Rehab Exercises for a Quick Recovery

A broken wrist is a common injury that can severely impact your everyday life. It can mean a break in the forearm bones (the distal radius and ulna), or of the carpal bones that make up the wrist joint. Falling is one of the most common causes of a wrist fracture.

Wrist fractures can be extremely painful. Your fracture may require surgery to help your wrist heal, and severe breaks can take up to 6 months to fully recover. In addition to surgery, broken wrists can be treated with splints, casts, and painkillers.

As an Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Doctor, I see patients recovering from fractured wrists. So, I’ve compiled a list of my top broken wrist exercises and recovery suggestions. 

broken wrist recovery exercises

Broken Wrist Recovery Tips

A wrist fracture can be painful and difficult to heal. But it is not impossible, and you can recover from a broken colles in no time at all if you follow the right steps. Here are some tips on how to recover after a wrist fracture.

Elevate Your Wrist

Elevate your fractured wrist at least a couple of inches above your chest level for the first few days after the injury. This will relieve pain and swelling. Resting your wrist is initially important so that it does not become more stiff and swollen. You should avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities until cleared by your doctor.

Apply Ice

Apply ice to your wrist every 2-3 hours for the first 24 hours after the break. You can also use cold compresses that have been soaked in water or saline solution. Do this until the swelling subsides. Applying ice to your injury will help reduce swelling and ease the pain.

Compression

You can use compression to reduce swelling while your wrist is being elevated. However, be sure to consult with your doctor, so you don’t accidentally cut off the circulation in your wrist. 

Use Pain Medication

If you’re experiencing pain, your doctor may suggest an over-the-­counter pain reliever. Stronger prescription pain medication may be necessary for severe wrist pain.

NSAIDs can help relieve pain but might also hinder bone healing, especially if taken for extended periods. Speak with your doctor before taking any new medications for pain relief.

If you have a wrist fracture that has broken through the skin near the injury site, you’ll likely receive an antibiotic to prevent infection from reaching the bone.

Exercise Joints Near the Wrist

Doing light exercises after your broken bone heals is important to regain the full mobility of your wrist joints. Avoid doing intense exercises involving lifting weights.

The best way to do this is by using a splint. A splint will help keep your wrist straight and prevent it from bending too far forward or backward. It should also allow enough movement to move your fingers and thumb without causing pain.

You Got Your Cast Off, Now What?

After you take off your cast, your wrist may feel vulnerable because it has not been used for a long time. It is important that any swelling, pain, strength, and stiffness be addressed after removing the cast.

You may experience dry skin after getting your cast off. After your cast comes off, wash your arm thoroughly to remove any dead skin cells. Put your arm in warm water for about five to ten minutes. The dry skin should be easy to rub off with a towel. This can be followed by applying moisturizer to help soothe the skin.

Follow-up care is an essential part of your treatment and recovery. Be sure to keep up with all your appointments during and after cast removal, and call your doctor or nurse if you experience issues. It’s also useful to know your test results, keep a list of your medications, and follow up with your doctor if you notice any changes in your bone health.

Broken Wrist Rehab Exercises

When your wrist is in a cast, the lack of movement may cause muscle atrophy. After the cast is removed, physical therapy is an important part of the recovery process. It helps restore the function of your arm and wrist by strengthening and retraining the muscles around them.

To ensure you recover safely, you want to ensure you’re not doing too little or too much. Too little, and you won’t get any better. You don’t want to go overboard, or you may cause harm. Exercise only to a comfortable level. If you feel pain when exercising, stop and seek medical care. It’s normal for mild discomfort to occur. It should settle throughout the day.

The following gentle exercises can begin after your cast comes off. Practice them at a light level throughout the day to increase mobility. To help loosen the muscles, soak your arm in warm water before exercising.

Wrist Flexion and Extension

Wrist Flexion and Extension
  1. Put your arm on a table, with the palm of your hand facing downward.
  2. Bend your wrist to raise your hand and allow your hand to form a fist.
  3. Then, lower your hand and allow it to relax. Hold each position for at least 6 seconds.
  4. Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times.

Hand Flips

hand flips
  1. While sitting, place your forearm and hand on your leg, palm down, and fingers straight.
  2. Flip your hand over so your palm is facing up and your hand is resting on your thigh.
  3. Switch between palm up and palm down while keeping your forearm on your thigh.
  4. Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times.

Wrist Radial and Ulnar Deviation

Wrist Radial and Ulnar Deviation
  1. Put your affected hand out in front of you with the palm facing downward
  2. Gently bend your wrist as far as you can from side to side.
  3. Hold each position for roughly 6 seconds.
  4. Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times.

Wrist Extensor Stretch

Wrist Extensor Stretch
  1. Extend the arm with your affected wrist in front of your body and point your fingers downward.
  2. Use your other hand to gently bend your wrist until you feel a moderate stretch.
  3. Hold the stretch for a minimum of 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Wrist Flexor Stretch

Wrist Flexor Stretch
  1. Extend the arm with your affected wrist in front of your body with your palm facing away.
  2. Bend your wrist so that your palm faces upward.
  3. Use your other hand to bend your wrist back to a moderate stretch.
  4. Hold the stretch for a minimum of 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Intrinsic Flexion

Intrinsic Flexion
  1. Rest your hand against a table and bend the joints where your fingers connect. Keep your thumb and other joints in your fingers aligned.
  2. Straighten your fingers slowly. Relax your wrist, and follow the line of your fingers and thumb.
  3. Return to your starting position, keeping your hand bent.
  4. Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times.

Tendon Glides

Tendon glide
  1. Hold your hands out in front of you with your elbows bent at 90 degrees at your side 12-18 inches apart.
  2. Curl your fingers down into your palm, allowing your thumbs to move into a comfortable position.
  3. Return to the original position.
  4. Make a fist, allowing your thumb to bend over your fingers.
  5. Return to the original position.
  6. Bend your hands at the third knuckle down. Your hand should look like an upside-down “L” shape, with your thumbs pointing up on the outside of your hand.
  7. Return to the original position.
  8. Bend your hand, so your fingers make an upside-down “U.”
  9. Return to the original position.

MP Extension

MP extension
  1. Place the non-injured hand on a table with your palm up. Put the affected hand on top of the healthy hand with your fingers wrapped tightly around your wrist.
  2. Slowly straighten the finger joints of your hand so that only the top two joints of your fingers are bent. It will end up looking like a hook.
  3. Move back to your original position, with your fingers curled around your thumb.
  4. Repeat 8 to 12 times. 

Wrist Circles

Wrist circles
  1. Put your arm by your side at a 90-degree angle, keeping the affected wrist extended.
  2. Keeping your arm and forearm still, make a big circle motion with your wrist.
  3. Repeat the motion 5 to 10 times, both clockwise and counter-clockwise.

Grip Strengthening

grip strengthening
  1. Sit comfortably with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle, palm facing inward, holding a towel in the affected hand.
  2. Squeeze slowly, and release.
  3. Repeat this 8 to 10 times.

Common Questions about Broken Wrist Rehab

Recap

Physical activities can seem frustrating while recovering from a wrist fracture. However, with these broken colles rehab exercises, you should find it easier to regain full mobility within a few short months, depending on the severity of the injury.

Most people who suffer from a wrist injury fully recover, but long-term complications are possible. With physical therapy, medication, and at-home exercising and stretching, recovery and pain management is much more attainable. 

Photo of author

Dr. Kristina DeMatas

Dr. DeMatas practices holistic, evidence-based family medicine that focuses on treating injuries and transforming lives through prevention, rehabilitation, and diet. She is a licensed, practicing Physician at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. Read bio.

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