(Colles Fracture) 
What is it?
  • When someone breaks their wrist, they may break any of a number of bones.
  • The most common types of wrist fractures are those involving one of the wrist bones, such as a scaphoid fracture, and those involving a break of the end of the forearm bones.
  • A Colles fracture is a wrist fracture involving a break of the end of the radius bone of the forearm ("distal radius fracture").
Scaphoid Fracture
Colles Fracture
What caused it?
Wrist fractures occur most often in a fall or in a motor vehicle accident, but any sufficiently strong force on the hand can break the wrist. The wrist can be broken from a sudden force pushing the hand backwards.
A strong force pushing the hand into the forearm can also cause a Colles fracture, which often involves a break of the radius bone near its end. There is a natural weak spot in the radius where it widens. 
Because of the flare in the shape of the bone, the broken piece next to the hand is usually wider than the piece right next to it.
If the pieces don't lock back together like a jigsaw puzzle, the pull of the forearm muscles can pull the larger end over the smaller like a sleeve, and the bone can shorten like a collapsible drinking cup.
Wrist arthritis may occur following a distal radius fracture. This can be the result of cartilage injury at the time of the break, or wear and tear from changes in the joint alignment after the bone is healed.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, causing numbness and tingling in the fingertips may also develop when a wrist fracture narrows the path for the nerve and tendons in front of the bone.

A common development after a Colles fracture is a change in the contour of the back of the wrist due to the bone healing in a tipped back position. This often looks worse than it feels.
What can you do to help?
  • Ice, elevation and rest - and check with your doctor. If the injury involved a cut, medical evaluation is particularly important - check whether or not a tetanus shot, antibiotics or other treatment is needed.
What can a therapist do to help?
  • Depending on the problem, a therapist can be very helpful in providing a protective splint and supervising special exercises to improve movement and strength.
  • Wrist and finger stiffness is a very common problem after this injury, and therapy can be the step which makes all of the difference.
What can a doctor do to help?
  • Confirm that this is the problem. X-rays are usually needed to show exactly what the problem is. Treatment really depends on the type of  break. Your doctor may recommend: 
    • moving the fingers and doing exercises right away 
    • wearing a splint or a cast 
    • having surgery to set the break, possibly using hardware (pins, screws, wires, etc.) to hold the pieces in place. There are many different types of surgery, and treatment must be tailored to fit not only the break but  other factors which affect the healing process.
How successful is treatment?
  • Regardless of treatment, recovery takes a surprisingly long time - six to twelve months is typical.
  • Pain, fatigability, and loss of grip strength are a nuisance in about half of people with this type of injury.
  • Despite this, three out of four patients on the average have a satisfactory result following distal radius fracture.
What happens if you have no treatment?
  • It's a roll of the dice. You may luck out and wind up with a pretty good result. However, if the break really needs to be set, it's best to do it right away. If the bone heals in the wrong position, it can be rebroken and re-set later, but the results of this late intervention are not as reliable, and usually not as good.
Click here to search the web for distal radius fracture