Scaphoid Fracture: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
The human hand consists of 27 bones, including the scaphoid bone. The scaphoid bone itself is an essential part of the hand's motion and stability in the wrist joint, forming the carpal bones with other parts that connect the forearm and the hand. However, the scaphoid bone is also the bone most likely to break in a hand injury.
In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of scaphoid fractures and the consequences of leaving them untreated.
Let's dive straight in:
What Are the Causes of Scaphoid Fractures?
Scaphoid fractures are common in the wrist, and there are a variety of different causes that can contribute to a fracture of this bone:
Direct trauma to the wrist, such as falling onto an outstretched hand, sudden twisting movements, or blunt force onto the wrist, is the most common cause of scaphoid fractures. Activities that pose a risk of these injuries include:
Repetitive wrist movements can cause stress to the scaphoid bone, leading to fractures from overuse. Many activities can cause scaphoid fractures due to overuse, such as:
- Playing musical instruments
- Repetitive manual labour tasks
Arthritis in the wrist can weaken the scaphoid bone, making it more susceptible to fractures even without repetitive movements or direct trauma.
Scaphoid Fracture Symptoms
When experiencing a scaphoid fracture, it can take several days or even weeks for the first symptoms to appear. The most common symptom is pain in the wrist, particularly on the thumb side. Pain can range from mild to severe, with pain increasing while grabbing or lifting objects. Other symptoms may include:
- Swelling, bruising, and stiffness in the wrist area
- Difficulty performing grabbing movements
- Restricted range of motion in the wrist
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the thumb and fingers
Treatment for Scaphoid Fractures
It is crucial to treat scaphoid fractures to ensure complete recovery. Treatment options include:
Hand therapists will use splints, braces, or casts and to keep the wrist protected, allowing the scaphoid bone to heal, reduce swelling, pain symptoms, and inflammation. The duration of having to keep your wrist in a splint can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of injury.
Medications can be used to treat specific symptoms of scaphoid fractures, including inflammation, swelling, and pain. Over-the-counter or prescription medications can be used.
Hand therapy is crucial in regaining strength, range of motion, and function in the affected hand after a scaphoid fracture has healed. An occupational therapist or physiotherapist specialising in hands can create a customised rehabilitation plan with exercises, stretches, soft tissue massages, and specific activities to work on current hand movement deficits.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the broken scaphoid bone. Scaphoid fracture surgery is rare, but it is a viable option if the bone is not healing correctly, and further wrist damage must be prevented.
What Happens if a Scaphoid Fracture Is Left Untreated?
It is crucial to seek treatment when you suspect a scaphoid fracture. Without proper medical attention, you can prevent the bone from healing and cause further issues down the line.
If a scaphoid fracture does not heal, it is referred to as a scaphoid fracture non-union. An untreated scaphoid fracture can lead to non-union of the bones in the hand, making it significantly weaker than what it should be. Daily tasks become more challenging, and the hand becomes more vulnerable to further injuries.
Untreated scaphoid fractures can create abnormal joint functions, which can lead to the development of arthritis. This chronic disease is characterised by symptoms such as long-lasting pain, stiffness, and wrist weakness.
In some cases, untreated scaphoid fractures can result in a lack of blood flow to parts of the hand, leading to avascular necrosis. This can cause the bones in your hand to collapse, followed by further pain and a weakened wrist.
A scaphoid fracture can significantly impact an individual's hand function and in turn, quality of life. If you suspect a broken hand, it's vital to seek health professional advice immediately to avoid concerns such as non-union, arthritis, and avascular necrosis. With treatment options such as braces, medication, and hand therapy - you'll be well armed to make a full recovery with the right medical attention.
At Apricus Health, we provide specialised hand therapy services to identify scaphoid fractures, protect the wrist through our immobilisation options, and assist you in regaining hand strength and function. Don't let a scaphoid fracture hold you back from living your best life. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you make a full recovery from your injury.