Recovering from a fractured wrist is a major inconvenience for most patients. Helping them regain strength and range of motion as quickly as possible is an important part of their treatment. Whether you are providing treatment immediately after the injury has occurred or after the cast has been removed, there are certain steps you can take to help patients heal faster and return to normal activity levels as quickly as possible.
While you're already familiar with most of the exercises that can be used during wrist fracture recovery, what else can you do to help accelerate the healing process? Using a combination of new treatment approaches and time-tested therapeutic methods can help your wrist-fracture patients heal even more quickly and safely.
If the wrist is in a sling or removable brace while the bones are repairing themselves, it’s possible to use cryotherapy to help reduce pain and swelling while also stimulating the healing process. A body-conforming wrap delivers consistent, targeted, therapeutic cold, which helps naturally relieve pain and slows down cellular metabolism. At the same time, active compression helps remove edema and prevents additional swelling from building up in the area surrounding the wrist joint.
After the inflammation has subsided, contrast therapy may be used to promote healing by increasing circulation with the application of heat. Quickly alternating with therapeutic cold allows the body to get the benefits of heat without the risk of additional inflammation caused by the increased blood flow. If the wrist has been placed in a cast, contrast therapy may be used after it is removed to help increase circulation and reduce pain.
Although the broken bones in a wrist fracture will naturally heal themselves, in some cases, the process may be accelerated with the use of electrical stimulation. Capacitive coupling, which requires a patient to wear two skin electrodes that are placed on either side of the broken bones, causes bone cells to divide more rapidly, which may contribute to faster healing. This method has been shown to be particularly effective for scaphoid fractures and for patients who have difficulties with bone healing.
When patients visit a physical therapist, they expect to experience the types of treatments that they aren’t able to do at home on their own. Using hands-on techniques such as passive range of motion exercises and massage may help facilitate the recovery process and keep patients returning to the clinic. Passive exercises help them safely regain the range of motion they will have lost while the wrist was immobilized. Massage can help remove edema and stiffness from the muscles surrounding the joint.
Another way to help a patient recovering from a wrist fracture is to provide occupational therapy tips that may help them safely perform daily activities without risk of slowing down the healing process. It can be difficult for patients to adapt to life without the full use of their hand, wrist, or arm, but the more they are able to maintain their lifestyle, the less disruptive the recovery process will be. Showing patients a few exercises for improving grip strength, as well as alternate ways of performing certain activities, can go a long way in the recovery process.
The Game Ready Checklist for Finding a Physical Therapist recommends that people ask providers about their treatment approaches and how current they are with new technologies. How does your practice stack up against the other providers in your area? If you’d like to learn more about cryotherapy and contrast therapy for treating wrist fractures and other types of injuries, contact us today.