• Falling Onto The Outstretched Arm: A Common Cause of Hand Stiffness

    Falling Onto The Outstretched Arm: A Common Cause of Hand Stiffness

    The radius is the most commonly broken bone within the arm. The common cause of this is usually falling onto an outstretched arm while playing sport (soccer, rugby, basketball, skateboarding, skiing etc.) or during some type of accident. The break usually occurs at the end of the bone – termed as a ‘distal radius fracture’.

    Commonly, this injury is seen in children due to their active nature and the elderly due to their frail bones. However it has been found that there is an escalation of this type of injury across all populations due to the increasingly active lifestyle in which people are currently partaking.

    A common reflex to us all is the use of our hands or forearm when protecting ourselves. This is especially the case in an unexpected fall where one will immediately respond by outstretching their arm and hand to break the fall.

    Common Cause of Hand Stiffness

    The forearm consists of two bones, namely the radius and the ulna

    It has been found that this injury then leads to a significant impact on school attendance, a decrease in work hours, loss of independence and lasting disability in some cases. After a fall, one may experience symptoms such as pain, swelling, bruising and a
    deformity of the wrist. If these symptoms are evident then you should go to the emergency room for x-rays and to see an orthopedic surgeon.

    These fractures are treated surgically with screws/plates or conservatively by means of a cast, however, the orthopedic surgeon will decide which the best option is in relation to the severity of the injury. With either treatment method, the wrist is placed in a static position for a period of approximately six weeks.

    After a period of time, the hand and wrist could become very stiff and this in turn could have an impact on effective functioning within activities of daily living as one may experience swelling or decreased movement of the fingers and wrist. If one is experiencing these symptoms, then they should be referred for occupational therapy.

    The occupational therapist will assist in decreasing the swelling and returning the fingers and wrist to the best movement achievable. Some of the techniques which my be used for this will include pressure therapy, manual oedema massage, scar management,
    splinting and active/passive exercises. The therapist will also work to strengthen the hand and wrist, allowing one to return to their activities of daily living. The therapist could also prescribe assistive devices which would assist one to achieve independence in their activities of daily living.

    It is very important for stiffness of the hand to be detected early, so that further damage of hand or wrist structures are prevented. If you require further information then please contact roxanne@wentzel.co.za.

    Leave a reply →