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What is a fracture of the scaphoid?

A fracture of the scaphoid refers to a break in the bone at the base of your thumb just above the wrist. Physiotherapy is a very effective way to rehabilitate your hand following a scaphoid fracture.

What causes a fractured scaphoid?

The scaphoid bone is usually fractured following a fall on an outstretched hand.

Soft tissue massage and mobilisation of the carpal bones and the surrounding connective tissuesAbove: Soft tissue massage and mobilisation of the carpal bones and the surrounding connective tissues

What are the symptoms of a fractured scaphoid?

A fractured scaphoid normally produces pain on the thumb side of the wrist joint. Usually, when a bone is broken intense pain is felt, however, in the case of a fractured scaphoid this pain may not be very strong and the injury may feel more like a wrist sprain. Similarly, in comparison to fractures of other bones, a fracture of the scaphoid frequently does not cause any obvious deformity at the wrist and there is often minimal swelling. As a result, many people don’t actually realise that they have broken their scaphoid. Other possible symptoms include:

What should I do if I think I have fractured my scaphoid?

A fracture of the scaphoid is a serious injury which requires immediate medical attention. If you have or suspect you have fractured your scaphoid you should go to your nearest accident and emergency department. You may find it useful to support your arm in an arm sling. To help with your pain and reduce and control any swelling, you should apply ice to the wrist. Ideally, this should be in the form of crushed ice wrapped in a damp towel or cloth applied for up to 20 minutes.

An X-ray or CT scan may be required to view the bones. The results can give an indication of how long the injury is expected to take to heal and determine the appropriate treatment. This may involve applying an arm cast and wearing a sling.

Fractured scaphoid physiotherapy

If you have fractured your scaphoid you will be required to wear a splint or cast. This causes your joints to become stiff and your muscles to lose strength. Although your range of movement and strength will gradually return as you use your wrist, the return is slow and often not complete, predisposing you to other injuries.

Physiotherapy is very important to facilitate the return of your joint range of movement and muscle strength. Treatment options include:

Are there any long-term effects of scaphoid fractures?

Most fractures of the scaphoid heal without complication in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately some scaphoid fractures can result in longer-term effects. This most commonly occurs when the broken pieces of the scaphoid bone fail to unite (join) back together. This is a serious consequence which will prolong your recovery and may require surgery or alternative treatments to stimulate healing, it is common in those who do not get their problem properly assessed.

To arrange a physiotherapy appointment with a specialist physiotherapist call on 0330 088 7800 or book online.

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