(Fracture, Distal Radius; Distal Radius Fracture; Transverse Wrist Fracture; Dinner-Fork Deformity of the Wrist)
A Colles fracture is a break in the distal part of the radius bone in the forearm. The distal end of the bone is part of the wrist.
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This sheet focuses on fracture of the distal radius. Fractures of other wrist bones can be found on a separate sheet.
It may be caused by trauma from:
- A fall on an outstretched hand
- A direct blow to the wrist
- A motor vehicle accident
Things that may raise your risk are:
- Playing some sports, such as football, hockey, wrestling, or gymnastics
- Having a health problem that may result in falls, such as weak muscles
Problems may be:
- Pain that is worse with movement
- Swelling and bruising
- Problems moving the wrist or arm
- A change in the way the wrist looks
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the wrist and arm. You may need to see a doctor who treats bones.
Images will be taken of the wrist and arm. This can be done with an x-ray.
It will take 6 to 10 weeks to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the bone as it heals. This may include:
- Medicine to ease pain
- A cast, splint, or sling to keep the wrist in place as it heals
- Exercises to help with strength and range of motion
Children's bones have growth plates that let bones grow and harden with age. A child with a fracture may need to be checked over time to make sure the bone heals the right way and keeps growing.
Putting Bones Back in Place
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. This may be done:
- Without surgery—anesthesia will be used to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
- With surgery—pins, wires, plates, screws, or stitches in the bone or tendons may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place
Most fractures are due to accidents. Wearing wrist guards may help prevent some injuries. Healthy bones and muscles may also help. This may be done through diet and exercise.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Aliuskevicius M, Ostgaard SE, et al. No influence of ibuprofen on bone healing after Colles’ fracture - A randomized controlled clinical trial. Injury. 2019;50(7):1309-1317.
Distal radius fracture. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00412. Updated March 2013. Accessed December 4, 2019.
Distal radius fracture-emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/management/distal-radius-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed December 4, 2019.
Niver GE, Ilyas AM. Carpal tunnel syndrome after distal radius fracture. Orthop Clin North Am. 2012 Oct;43(4):521-527.
Van Delft EAK, van Gelder TG, et al. Duration of cast immobilization in distal radial fractures: A systematic review. J Wrist Surg. 2019 Oct;8(5):430-438.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS Last Updated: 7/14/2020