Broken Bones & Injuries FAQs

Wrist Fractures

A broken wrist, or a wrist fracture, can happen for a variety of reason.  A wrist can break during a sports injury, a vehicle crash or when falling or slipping on an outstretched hand.  The wrist is a complex joint made up of bones, ligaments and muscles and a fracture should be looked at by an orthopedic doctor.  If untreated with a cast, medication, ice or arthroscopic surgery, a broken wrist could lead to ongoing stiffness, osteoarthritis or circulation problems.  Sometimes it can be difficult to know if you have a broken wrist or a wrist sprain.  See below for common symptoms of a fractured wrist.

Wrist Fracture Symptoms

  • Severe pain and swelling
  • Tenderness and bruising
  • Bent or deformed wrist
  • Wrist, hand or finger stiffness

Treating Wrist Fractures

Different wrist fractures may be treated in different ways such as a split, cast, medication, icing or arthroscopy.  Dr. Berschback, a board certified orthopedic surgeon in Eau Claire, will help find the right treatment for your fracture.  Treatment methods for helping a broken wrist heal may include a splint or cast to demobilize the injured area and allow the fractured bone(s) to align.  Pain medications, icing the injured area and elevating the wrist may also ease pain and swelling during the recovery process.  Other methods for treating a broken wrist may include therapy and/or arthroscopic wrist surgery Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure where your surgeon is able to look inside the joint using small instruments and treat the problem area.

Eau Claire Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff tears are common among adults. It is a major cause of pain and weakness in the shoulder. Daily activities will become limited, such as combing your hair or getting dressed. These activities may be difficult and very painful to do on a daily basis.

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. Your arm is kept in your shoulder socket by your rotator cuff. The rotator cuff helps to lift and rotate your arm. When your rotator cuff endures a tear, the tendon no longer attaches to the shoulder. Torn tendons typically begin by fraying, and as damage progresses, rotator cuffs can tear completely.

How Rotator Cuff Tears Happen

There are several factors that may contribute to a rotator cuff tear:

  • Repetitive stress – Repeating the same motions over and over again creates stress on your rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
  • Lack of blood supply – Without a good blood supply, the human body’s ability to repair damage to the tendons is weakened.
  • Bone spurs – Bone overgrowth is likely to happen as we age, and the spurs rub on the rotator cuff tendon. This will weaken the tendon over time, making it more likely to tear.

Treating Rotator Cuff Tears

About half of patients will respond to non-surgical treatment to relieve shoulder pain without rotator cuff surgery; however, shoulder strength is not likely to improve without surgery. Many popular non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Rest
  • Avoid activities that induce shoulder pain
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy and other strengthening exercises
  • Steroid injections

Having Rotator Cuff Surgery

Your doctor may recommend rotator cuff surgery if you continue to experience shoulder pain. If your symptoms last longer than 6-12 months, or if you have significant weakness and loss of function, your doctor may also recommend rotator cuff surgery options. Your orthopedic surgeon will discuss the best procedure to meet your needs.

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Extensor Tendon Injuries

Extensor tendons are located on the back of the hand and fingers, directly on the bone. The extensor tendons in your hand allow you to straighten your fingers and thumb, and they are attached to the muscles in your forearm. Because extensor tendons are just under the skin, even a minor cut could injure them. After an injury to the extensor tendon, straightening one or more joints becomes difficult. To return use to the joints and tendons, treatment will be necessary.

Extensor Tendon Treatment

Treating extensor tendon injuries may differ based on the nature of the injury. For instance, a cut that splits the tendon may require stitches, while jamming injuries are typically treated with a splint. If your hand doctor recommends a splint, the splint should be worn as the doctor directs, at all times, until the tendon is fully healed. In some instances, a pin is placed through the bone as an internal splint to complement the external splint.

Flexor Tendon Injuries

Flexor muscles in the hand allow the finger to bend, or flex. These muscles move the fingers though tendons that connect to muscles to the bone. Deep cuts to the inside of the wrist, hand, or fingers, may injure the flexor tendons, as well as the nerves and blood vessels. Although the injury may look like a simple cut on the outside, the damage is actually much more complex on the inside. Tendons act like rubber bands, and when they are cut, the ends pull away from each other and the joints cannot bend on their own. If the tendon has not been cut through completely, the finger may still be able to bend but can cause pain, or eventually tear completely.

Treating Flexor Tendon Injuries

Flexor tendons are made up of living cells. Healing begins if the cut ends of the tendon can be brought back together in the cells of the inside of the tendon, as well as the tissue outside of the tendon. Typically the cut ends of a flexor tendon will separate, and in this case surgery is necessary in order to heal. Your hand surgeon will advise on how soon after the injury surgery is needed. After surgery the tendon may either need to be protected from movement altogether, or begin on a very limited movement program. Hand therapy is sometimes necessary in order to regain full range of motion. Healing after a flexor tendon injury may take up to three months after the surgery.

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Hand Fractures

No two hand fractures are alike. A broken hand can range from a tiny hairline crack in the bone, to a bone that has broken through the skin. A fracture can occur anywhere in your hand, and it can affect how your entire hand moves. Hand fractures can cause pain, throbbing, swelling, and in some cases, limited hand and finger mobility.

Treating Hand Fractures

Fractured bones start to heal on their own right away. A treatment process called reduction also assists in the healing process that repositions your bones. The goal is to get them as close as possible to how they were before the hand fracture. Both splints and casts limit the movement in your finger or arm to keep your fracture in the best position for healing. A pin, screw, or plate also helps keep the bone(s) stable and in place as it heals. Healing can take about 6 weeks.

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Mallet Finger (Softball Finger)

Mallet finger is a common extensor tendon injury. Mallet finger, or softball finger, refers to the end joint of a finger where the tendon has been separated or cut from the bone. This injury results in a fingertip that cannot straighten. Whether the injury stemmed from a cut or a jam to the finger, a splint is typically necessary in order to treat mallet finger. The splint is used to keep the tip of the finger straight until fully healed. Mallet finger injuries can take four to eight weeks to heal completely.

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Thumb Sprains

A sprain is an injury, typically caused by a wrench or twist, to a ligament. Thumb sprains occur when the thumb is jammed, or in an extreme position, causing a sprain injury. Sprains make moving the thumb very painful, and may include swelling and/or bruising. The most common thumb sprain injures the ulnar collateral ligament, also called “Skier’s Thumb.” It is called this because it typically occurs when a skier falls and bends their thumb in an extreme position. The ulnar collateral ligament may also be jammed when falling on the ground or onto something hard. The radial collateral ligament may also be injured, but it’s less common.

Treating Thumb Sprains

To ensure that the thumb is not fractured, your hand doctor will take X-rays of the thumb and hand. If the bones are not broken, your doctor will examine whether or not the ligament is torn. If the ligament in the thumb is partially torn, the injury will require a splint or cast in order to heal. If the ligament tissue is of poor quality, the ligament may need to be reconstructed. If arthritis is present, joint fusion may be necessary. Some patients may benefit from cortisone injections or surgery. Your hand surgeon will determine the best course of action in treating your thumb sprain(s).