Most people use their hands more than any other part of their body. Everything from typing on a keyboard to scratching your head requires collaboration between muscles and joints. It’s easy to take the complexity of our hands for granted.
The human hand contains 27 bones, some of which are in the wrist. When one of these bones sustains a fracture, it can be difficult to operate the entire hand.
Sustaining a broken hand makes it hard to function normally. When this happens, the first thing many people ask is “How long does it take for a broken hand to heal.”
To learn the answer to this question along with information about broken hands, keep reading.
Types of Hand Fractures
A broken hand, also called a metacarpal fracture, can occur in several different places. The location of the break has an impact on the type of treatment and the length of recovery.
One type of fracture includes a break of the fingers or thumbs, also called phalanges. These are often the most minor type of hand fractures.
Another type of break involves the bones in the palm of the hand. The medical term for these bones is metacarpal.
Finally, a break to one of the bones in the wrist is also considered a hand fracture. Bones in the wrist, called carpels, can cause loss of motion if injured.
Metacarpal fractures can occur for a variety of reasons. Injuries usually involve a direct blow to the hand or a situation where the hands get crushed.
Sports injuries are a primary cause of broken hands, especially during contact sports. They can also occur during car wrecks, falls, workplace accidents, or fighting.
Symptoms to Look Out For
It’s possible to sustain a metacarpal fracture and not realize the severity of your injury. This is a dangerous situation, as some people try to ignore it and continue using the injured hand.
The most common symptoms of a broken hand are pain and inflammation. The pain will get worse if you try to move your wrist or fingers or try to grip something.
You may also notice you’ve lost some or all of the range of motion in your hand, fingers, or wrist. It may even be impossible to move your hand at all.
Another common symptom is numbness. A tingling sensation may accompany this.
After a fracture to your thumb or fingers, you may notice a deformity. The injured bone may appear crooked or out of place.
Bruising is also possible but doesn’t always happen. Don’t make the mistake of passing the injury off as something minor because you don’t see bruised areas.
Testing for a Broken Hand
If you suspect you’ve sustained a fractured hand, it’s important to go to the doctor right away. Try not to use your hand at all.
Your doctor will first perform an examination to determine where the break is. This involves slowly moving your fingers and turning your wrist to find out where the highest concentration of pain is.
They’ll also touch your fingertips and other areas of your hand and ask if you feel anything. This tells them whether any damage to the nerves or tendons occurred during the break.
After a physical examination, your doctor will need to perform an x-ray. This will confirm if you’ve sustained a fracture and allow your doctor to view the extent of the damage.
Based on the x-ray, your doctor will be able to decide on the best treatment. This could include something simple like a fracture brace or more drastic measures such as surgery.
Surgery is only necessary if you sustained a very serious fracture. You may need pins inserted into your hand to hold bones in place during the recovery process.
How Long Does It Take for a Broken Hand to Heal?
The recovery time for a broken hand will vary based on several things. The location of the break and how serious it is are the two biggest deciding factors.
For a minor break, the doctor will most likely put a splint or brace on your hand. This will restrict motion while the bone heals. You’ll probably need to wear this for just under a month.
If the fracture requires surgery, recovery time will be much longer. After the surgery, you’ll need to wear a brace or cast for around six weeks.
After a major break heals, you’ll also need to go through a rehabilitation period. This involves physical therapy to help you regain your range of motion.
Depending on the severity of the fracture and the extensiveness of the surgery, you may need physical therapy for several months. However, going through rehab ensures your hand heals properly and you regain your full range of motion.
Healing at Home
Even after you receive medical treatment for a fractured hand, there are things you can do at home to help the recovery process.
You can expect to experience pain and swelling for one to two weeks. Applying an ice pack to your hand several times a day will help reduce this.
It also helps to keep your hand elevated above your heart. This stops blood from rushing to your hand and decreases inflammation.
For the pain, you can take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin. However, make sure you talk to your doctor first. If they prescribe you pain medication, you should only take over-the-counter medicines as recommended.
Even with a splint or brace on, try to move your hand as little as possible. You’ll need to take it easy until you’re fully healed.
Finally, get lots of rest. This is the best thing for your body right now.
Recover From a Fractured Hand ASAP
If you’re wondering “How long does it take for a broken hand to heal,” keep the information above in mind. A broken hand isn’t the end of the world, but it will drastically impact your ability to function to the best of your abilities.
The smartest thing you can do is follow your doctor’s orders and use the home care tips discussed above.
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