A Colles’ wrist
fracture occurs when the radius bone in your forearm breaks. It’s
also known as a distal radius fracture, transverse wrist fracture, or a
dinner-fork deformity of the wrist. It’s named after Abraham Colles, who wrote
a paper on this type of fracture in 1814.
Your radius is
the larger of the two main bones in your forearm. The distal part of the radius
is the end near your wrist. When you have a Colles’ wrist fracture, the distal
end breaks, which can cause your wrist to bend in an abnormal way.
This injury is very painful. You might not be able to hold or
grip anything, and your wrist will be swollen. You might also have bruising in
This type of injury occurs more often in older people with
brittle bones, and in children, whose bones tend to be soft. It can be treated
successfully with surgery, although recovery may be slow.
of Colles’ Wrist Fractures
Your doctor will categorize your fracture according to how and
where the bone broke. This helps determine what course of treatment you need.
Types of fractures include:
- open fracture: if the bone broke through your
- comminuted fracture: if the bone broke into more
than two pieces
- intra-articular fracture: if the bone broke
inside your wrist joint
- extra-articular fracture: if your joint isn’t
Causes and Risk Factors of Colles’ Wrist Fractures
Putting your hand out to stop yourself from falling is the most
common cause of a Colles’ wrist fracture. You’re more at risk of having a
distal radius fracture if you:
- have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens your
- are elderly
- have low muscle mass, poor muscle strength, or lack
agility (these conditions make you more likely to fall)
- walk or do other activities in snow, on ice, or that
require a lot of forward momentum, such as in-line skating and skiing
- have an inadequate intake of calcium or vitamin
The most important treatment initially is immobilizing your wrist
in a splint. You can simply use a magazine wrapped around your wrist to help
support it. Elevate your wrist above the level of your heart to prevent further
swelling. Putting an ice pack on the injury also helps reduce swelling.
Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
can help relieve pain.
Don’t try to straighten your wrist, and avoid moving it around.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately or go to an urgent care
center for medical treatment. Go straight to the emergency room if the pain is severe
or if your wrist is numb.
If your fracture isn’t serious, your doctor might place your
wrist in a lightweight cast or splint and let it heal. They may need to
straighten the bone if the fracture is displaced. This procedure, called
a reduction, is done before
your wrist is put in the cast. In most cases, the cast is taken off after a few
If your wrist is severely fractured, your doctor will recommend
surgery to correct it. Your bones will be straightened and held together using
pins, a plate and screws, or an external device that holds the pins in place.
After surgery, you may need to wear a splint or cast to immobilize your wrist and
help with pain relief.
Depending on the severity of your injury, you might have to work
with a physical therapist. You’ll do exercises to help rebuild strength in your
wrist and regain your normal range of motion.
from a Colles’ Wrist Fracture
A Colles’ wrist fracture can take a year or more to fully heal.
Your cast will typically be removed about six weeks after surgery. You should
be able to do light activities about a month or two after your cast is removed.
Usually, you can start doing more intense activities about three to six months
Your wrist will probably feel stiff for about a month or two
after the cast is off. You might continue to have a dull ache or stiffness for
about two years. Some people develop carpal tunnel syndrome after having a
Colles’ wrist fracture. If you’re older, you might not be able to fully move
a Colles’ Wrist Fracture
Make sure you’re getting enough calcium by eating dark, leafy
green vegetables, and low-fat dairy products fortified with calcium. If your
diet isn’t giving you enough calcium, you can make up for it by taking calcium
You can get enough vitamin D from sunlight. You may need
additional vitamin D if you don’t go outside much or if you use sunscreen every
time you’re in the sun. Eating foods that contain vitamin D, such as salmon,
can help you get the amount you need. You can take supplements if you can’t get
enough from sunlight and your diet.
Exercise helps strengthen your bones and muscles, which makes you
less likely to fall and fracture a bone. Weight-bearing exercises such as
jogging strengthen the bones and muscles in the lower half of your body.
Strength training routines, which include exercises like weight lifting, target
the muscles and bones in the upper half.
Wear a wrist guard if you do activities that raise your risk of getting
a Colles’ wrist fracture. It will help protect your wrist if you fall.