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Is it a break or a fracture? Kids wrist break questions answered!

Broken bones for children, in particular wrists, is not uncommon. Here, we break down some of the frequent questions we get.

Is a broken bone and a fracture the same or different?

They are the same! Just different terminology used by different people, but they are meaning the same thing. If you have a broken wrist bone, then that also means it is fractured.

How long will it take for a bone to heal??

This is a bit of a curly question at times as it will depend on a few different factors, but as a general rule – bones will take 8-12 weeks to heal completely. The good thing about bones is they are able to actually heal really well if everything progresses normally. The ability for the bone to remodel and heal itself in children is much more efficient that in adults. Bone healing is different to tendons and ligaments which recover to about 90-95% of their original strength, and take a lot longer.

What slows down healing?

Some factors that can affect bone healing include: age, general health conditions, severity and location of break, fixation / treatment – e.g casting vs surgery and nutrition. Weight bearing or ‘loading’ through the bone can also in some cases delay the healing, which is why we go for casts or splints to provide support. For children under the age of 16, they are usually advised to have some form of cast or splint on for 4-6 weeks full time.

Here at Riverina Hand Therapy, we recommend that everyone is in a supportive splint or cast for 6 weeks to allow the bone to heal to at least 50% strength before we get moving too much. Coming out of a cast early can increase your risk for re-injury / re-break and we would definitely prefer to avoid this situation for you and your loved ones. This doesn’t mean you are locked into a cast for this whole time and often we will be starting some gentle exercises out of the splint along the way if it is safe to do so.

What is a buckle fracture?

Young children often get a fracture called a ‘buckle fracture’. This is due to their bones being slightly softer while they are young and developing and often the bone will not actually crack but will compress and end up with a ‘wiggle’ in it on the x-ray. This is still considered a fracture (broken bone) and needs to be looked after to prevent issues as they continue to grow.

What do we do about showering when in a cast?

We will often opt for waterproof casts or splints to make wash time much easier. We find this decreases the itchy feeling as well. Waterproof casts are often lighter in weight too, so easier to tolerate over the weeks.

It can definitely be challenging to keep a splint or cast on a child as they often recover very quickly and report no pain or issues and just seem to get on with their business of being a kid. It is also hard when it means that they might need to sit out of their favourite sports for a few weeks but trust us – it is worth getting it right while they are young to prevent issues for them when they are older. We can often come up with a splinting solution for sports games as well so please just ask if you have sports related questions.


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