A colles fracture is break in the large bone of the forearm, called the radius. The radius is on the same side as the thumb. This type of fracture commonly occurs when a person is falling and stretches the arm out to catch himself or herself.
Immediate symptoms may include pain, swelling and the inability to move the wrist properly. The fingers, forearm, elbow and shoulder and also become stiff due to not being able to use the affected hand and wrist. This ultimately causes a loss of functional abilities to perform common daily activities.
These fractures, if untreated or undetected may not heal in a normal position or may not heal at all.
Other risks include wrist deformity, arthritis, weakness of grip and pinch, nerve compression and/or irritation, tendon ruptures and permanent wrist pain. Ultimately a person’s ability to move correctly may be permanently affected.
Common activities such as reaching behind the back, leaning on the arm, holding change, brushing teeth or even feeding oneself may become extremely difficult.
What to expect from therapy
The fracture must first be stabilized by a doctor. That can be achieved in numerous different methods depending on the fracture type and stability. The person may be placed in a cast or have to have surgical fixation.
Often, the process of therapy begins soon after the injury; once the fracture is stabilized.
Initial treatment includes management of pain and swelling, how to move the thumb, fingers, elbow and shoulder to prevent stiffness and how to perform normal activities using one hand. After the cast is removed the therapist may provide a custom splint for removable support and protection.
Treatment will then progress to restoring mobility and strength of the involved hand/wrist and upper extremity to allow the person to return to normal activities as prior to the injury. The therapist may also utilize various techniques and modalities to decrease stiffness and improve motion such as heat/ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, manual mobilization skills and splinting techniques.