What is a Colles Fracture?

The fracture is named after Irish Professor Abraham Colles who in the 1810s wrote about this kind of bone fracture. This fracture includes one of the biggest main bones in the forearm known as the radius. Since the bone is an important one you can expect relatively serious symptoms when it breaks.

A Colles fracture is one of the different ways you can break your arm. It’s often referred to as a “broken wrist” but actually involves a bone in the forearm known as the radius bone. This is also known by other terms including “dinner-fork deformity.” The fracture is named after Irish Professor Abraham Colles who in the 1810s wrote about this kind of bone fracture. This fracture includes one of the biggest main bones in the forearm known as the radius. Since the bone is an important one you can expect relatively serious symptoms when it breaks. For example, it will often result in a lot of pain.

This type of fracture involves many issues. There are also different ways the bone can break so your doctor can determine the type of fracture you’ve experienced. That will help you get the right treatment and on the road to recovery. The forearm is an important part of the arm like the biceps and triceps. So, it helps to know about this type of fracture so you’ll know what to expect if you experience it. For example, you’re at a higher risk if you’re a senior, have low muscle mass, or break a fall.

What Is a Colles Fracture?

Let’s start with the basics of this type of broken bone. People often refer to this as a “broken wrist” but it technically involves the forearm.

The forearm has two primary bones and the larger one is known as the “radius.” The other main bone is closer to the wrist. Not-So-Fun Fact: the radius bone is the most frequently broken bone located in the arm.

The Colles fracture is a certain kind of radius break, which happens around 1 inch from the person’s wrist (thumb side). This type of fracture takes place when a bone’s broken piece points in an upward direction.

There are actually different types of Colles fractures. This is based on where the break happened and the doctor can sort things out. The location of the broken bone will also help the doctor pick a treatment for you. Here are the main types of fractures:

  • Comminuted Fracture: Bone broke into 3+ pieces
  • Open fracture: bone broke through the skin
  • Intra-articular Fracture: Bone broke into wrist joint
  • Extra-Articular Fracture: Joint is unaffected

This is a very painful injury. In fact, it might be difficult to hold/grip anything and can cause bruising and swelling in the area.

This type of bone fracture is most common among seniors and children since they have softer bones. Surgery can treat the fracture successfully. However, full recovery might be somewhat slow. 

The fracture includes various symptoms you should be aware of. They include:

  1. Swelling
  2. Tenderness
  3. Wrist hangs awkwardly
  4. Bruising
  5. Pain

If you’re experiencing such symptoms then it’s important to get it checked out immediately. Like other bone fractures, it’s important to get this one diagnosed as soon as possible.

That will allow the doctor to select the best treatment for the type of fracture you have. A doctor can conduct an exam and order tests to determine which bone is broken.

Causes/Risk Factors

Make sure to know the common causes and risk factors of Colles fractures. This will help to determine whether or not you’re suffering from that condition. It’s possible the break could involve a different bone. Here are some of the most common causes of this “wrist fracture.”

Osteoporosis

This disease causes bones to become weaker and is more common among elderly women. This disease causes your bones to become brittle. As a result, there’s a greater chance your bones could break when experiencing situations like falls. 

Fall

More specifically this fracture often results when you put your hand out to break your fall. This type of fracture often happens when people are in accidents involving cars, bikes, and skis.

This is actually the most common cause of this type of bone fracture. So, if your forearm doesn’t feel right after breaking your fall there’s a good chance you’ve experienced this kind of bone breakage.

Elderly

This is related to various factors linked to an older age. They include muscle mass, bone density, etc. For example, calcium deficiencies and low bone density are more common among the elderly. So, when they experience a fall there’s a greater chance it will result in bones breaking. 

Calcium/Vitamin D deficiency

These are important nutrients for strong bones. So, if you have a deficiency you’re more likely to experience broken bones after a fall, for example.

This highlights the need to make sure you’re getting enough calcium/Vitamin D from food and/or supplements. Good sources of calcium/Vitamin D include dairy products and green leafy vegetables.

Low Muscle Mass

There are other factors like poor balance and low agility. These conditions all make it more likely that a person will fall. So, if you suffer from these conditions, you’re more likely to fall and experience a Colles fracture.

Treatment

There are various treatments that can be used to treat Colles Fracture. The most important step to take is to use a splint so your wrist can’t move. Then just support your wrist by wrapping a magazine around it. Here are some other treatments:

Wrist immobilization

Make sure to avoid moving your wrist around. This could make the situation worse and increase pain and swelling. Those are certain situations to avoid after suffering a bone fracture.

Ice pack

This can help to reduce the swelling. It’s one of the most important steps to take after bones break such as in your forearm/wrist.

Cast/Splint

This is a non-surgical treatment if the fracture isn’t a serious problem. This will prevent the wrist from moving and allow it to heal.

The cast is usually only worn for a few weeks. A process called reduction might be done to straighten the bone if it’s been moved from the fracture.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor might require you to visit a physical therapist. They’ll require you to do various exercises to increase your wrist’s strength and get a full range of motion again.

Surgery

This might be recommended to correct your fracture. This involves pins, screws, and plates. A splint/cast might be worn after surgery to prevent your wrist from moving.

Painkillers

You can also take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to help relieve pain. Ibuprofen and others are a good option and are effective for reducing pain.

Elevate wrist

This should be done above your heart in order to prevent swelling after a fracture.

It’s important to note that this broken bone can take up to a year to heal. Make sure to contact a doctor if you think you’ve experienced this condition. The doctor can conduct a check-up, run tests, and help provide the best treatment for your colles fracture. 

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