Maybe it was the ice, a loose stair tread, wet leaves or an uneven sidewalk. Whatever the reason, a FOOSH (fall on out-stretched hand) is a very typical way to break your wrist or a finger.
Some people will hesitate to get a wrist or finger injury checked because they feel it may be “just a sprain” or they fear the costs of X-rays and physician fees. However, it can be more costly to treat an undiagnosed fracture later. When treated in timely fashion, even complex injuries can have very successful outcomes, and likely, a shorter healing and recovery time.
Diagnosing the Injury
It can be overwhelming when you hear you have broken a bone, need a cast or surgery, can’t work for several weeks, or worse, that your hand may not recover all of its function. Frequently it is an emergency room doctor or family practitioner who initially diagnoses your injury and tells you if there is a break. My belief is that hand injuries should be assessed by an orthopedic hand specialist physician, followed by a certified hand therapist. These practitioners have additional training and experience in hand and forearm injuries and can streamline the best approach for even the simplest of injuries.
Some fractures of the wrist or finger bones need to be rigidly fixed by surgery, which can involve cutting open the area and using wires, screws, plates, rods or even bone grafts to promote healing. In other cases, pins are placed through the skin to hold bone fragments in place. Many cases will simply require a cast or splint to protect the area and prevent further disruption of the fragments until they mend.
Healing times for bones vary according to many factors, including the type of break, how quickly it is tended to and health factors that can prolong healing time, such as diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, cancer and smoking.
Some fractures can heal well enough for patients to begin gentle movement after only two to three weeks, while others may require four to six weeks or longer of immobilization. Complicating factors can include ligament and tendon damage as well as swelling.
After the period of immobilization, motion therapy  can begin. Patients may need professional guidance to know what to do and how to do it – how much intensity to use and how frequently they need to exercise. A certified hand therapist is an expert in providing treatment for these injuries with the best possible outcomes.
As a certified hand therapist, I talk to the patient’s physician and review his or her notes to obtain as much information as possible. Knowledge is power when it comes to rehabilitating the hand. Each person needs a thorough evaluation, which determines the deficit areas, as well as an individualized treatment plan designed for their specific needs.
Choosing the Right Provider
Seek out the right professionals and they will be able to help you move quickly through the process, whether your injury is simple or complex. Look for providers accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and the Joint Commission, such as Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network.
So the next time you injure your wrist, hand or finger, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. Hand specialists can ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome to regain mobility and function.