(Fracture, Wrist; Broken Wrist; Scaphoid Fracture; Navicular Fracture)
by Mary Calvagna, MS
A wrist fracture is a break in one or more of the bones in the wrist. The wrist is made up of the two bones in the forearm called the radius and the ulna. It also includes eight carpal bones. The carpal bones lie between the end of the forearm bones and the bases of the fingers. The most commonly fractured carpal bone is called the scaphoid or navicular bone.
This fact sheet will focus on fractures of the carpal bones of the wrist. Wrist fractures of the radius, often called Colles' fracture, can be found on a separate sheet.
A wrist fracture is caused by trauma to the bones in the wrist. Trauma may be caused by:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase your chance of developing a wrist fracture include:
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume they are due to a wrist fracture. Symptoms of a wrist fracture include.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The injured area will be examined.
Images may need to be taken of your wrist. This can be done with:
Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. It may involve:
Devices that may be used to hold the bone in place while it heals include:
Your doctor may give you pain medicine depending on your level of pain. Your doctor will order more x-rays while the bone heals. The x-rays will help to make sure that the bones have not shifted.
When your doctor decides you are ready, start range-of-motion and strength exercises. A physical therapist may help you with these exercises. Do not return to sports until your wrist is fully healed.
A fracture of a carpal bone may take 10-16 weeks to heal. For the best recovery, follow your doctor's directions.
To help reduce your chance of getting a wrist fracture, take the following steps:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Distal radius fracture. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00412 . Updated August 2007. Accessed March 12, 2013.
Distal radius fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com . Updated December 17, 2012. Accessed March 12, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013