7 Things I Learned After Breaking My Dominant Wrist

Smile: compliments of dilaudid.

The day I broke my wrist. Smile: compliments of dilaudid

A few months ago, I fell while running and broke my dominant wrist. The radius was in many pieces, but it somehow managed to stay intact. My surgeon decided to watch and wait, but four weeks later, even I could see on the X-ray that the bone was splitting lengthwise. It was time for surgery. This meant that four weeks after the injury, the plate and screws installed in my arm set me back to a healing stage of “minus one.”

Now that I’m nearly back to normal and have made it past my “lost summer,” I’ve learned some things from breaking my dominant wrist, and I’d like to share seven of them with you:

  1. Pain meds were necessary AND evil. In the recovery room, I rated my pain at a 10. The nurse said that a 10 would feel like I was having my hand sawed off. Okay, a nine, I said, not knowing that the next day, my wrist would feel like someone was taking a steak knife to it. The doctor increased the dosage and frequency of my oxycodone (I had requested this over Vicodin, which had done little for me after the break). The opiate was necessary and made the pain tolerable, but each time I was coming off a dose, I was thrown into a combination of agitation and hopelessness (my poor husband).

    Two weeks after the break, I paid out-of-pocket for a fiberglass cast, which came off two weeks later for surgery.

    Two weeks after the break, I paid out-of-pocket for a fiberglass cast, which came off two weeks later for surgery.

  2. It took twice as long to get half as much done. I’ve always been the type of person to try to get as much done as possible in the least amount of time. During my recovery, I had to resign myself to the fact that if I was going to try to get anything done (taking a shower or working one-handed on the computer), it was going to take twice as long to make half the progress I’d have made otherwise.

    That's the good view of my wrist. You don't want to see the other one.

    That’s the good view of my wrist. You don’t want to see the other one.

  3. There are plenty of Internet resources for one-handed living. Unlike when I broke the other wrist in 2003, the Internet has many hacks for doing tasks with one hand, including some dedicated to operating when your dominant arm is out of commission. I aggregated what I found in a blog post.IMG_2181
  4. I couldn’t do it alone. Well, maybe YOU could, but I never could have done it alone. My husband, who is my hero, became more so during my recuperation. He cooked, made lunches, fetched ice for my swelling, took care of the dogs, and so much more. He even showed extreme patience when I complained about how he did something, letting me know that he was doing A LOT already. And I had to agree.
  5. It was easy to get depressed. In addition to the opiate side effects, realizing that my body isn’t infallible, and being abruptly taken out of my active routine, messed with my mind. I went through periods of wondering if it was all worthwhile and doubting that I would ever be the same. Refer to #1. Then, I would feel dumb, because a broken wrist is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
  6. Physical therapy was  worthwhile. My surgeon warned me that my range of motion would never be the same. Things were so bad that a week after surgery, instead of putting me in a cast, he sent me down the hall to physical therapy where I was given a removable splint and exercises for fingers that couldn’t even bend. Over an eight-week period, I not only regained the use of my fingers, but my wrist’s range of motion is nearly back to normal.
I never got a second cast after surgery, because of swelling, and fingers that wouldn't work.

I never got a second cast after surgery, because of swelling, and fingers that wouldn’t work.

  1. In the end, I am more aware. For me, the “taking twice as long to do half as much” has made me appreciate each task when I’m doing it. Now, when I’m throwing a load of laundry in the washer, I’m aware of the look of the washer, the sound it makes when I press the buttons, and the whoosh of the water as it enters the machine. It seems that I have a new appreciation for each moment when I’m in it, rather than living in the one that hasn’t come yet.

So, there you have it. Seven things I learned from breaking my dominant wrist. When I think back over those months of recovery, it almost seems like another person went through the experience. I guess that’s quite accurate, because I certainly didn’t feel like myself at the time.

If you’ve broken a bone, or sustained any other sort of activity-limiting injury, I hope these seven things will help you.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Tell us about it in the comments below.

By the end of summer, we celebrated my birthday, I was almost finished with PT, and just about back to normal. That's a genuine smile.

At the end of summer, we celebrated my birthday, I was almost finished with PT, and just about back to normal. That’s a genuine smile.

Ann Silverthorn


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Posted in Daily Life, Health
7 comments on “7 Things I Learned After Breaking My Dominant Wrist
  1. MJK says:

    You are a trooper, no matter how you feel about it!

  2. Karen says:

    You poor thing! The next time this happens, and I hope there is no next time, use your pain meds smarter. Keep on top of the pain rather than chase it. Keep the pain at a minimum by taking them every four hours until the pain becomes tolerable. I know, I’m a little late with this advise. Your welcome! Love you!

    • Ann Silverthorn says:

      Thanks, Karen. The problem with pain meds these days is that the docs prescribe them to be taken every six hours instead of every four. That was consistent between the ER doc and the surgeon. Of course, I’m a good patient and followed directions, but six hours is a long time to go when you’re in pain. . .

  3. Kevin says:

    that is a seriously large cast. you had to live your life left handed? welcome to my world. it can be a scary place.

  4. Judi says:

    Thank you for your tips. I’m 6 weeks post op for a shattered radius on my dominate left arm. Surgery was preformed 3 days after my injury and PT started 10 days later. My range of motion has increased in my wrist and elbow so I’m very hopeful things will be close to normal once healing is done. I see my Dr tomorrow and I’m hoping I can keep the clam shell brace off for good. Thank you for sharing your story and your tips.

    • Ann Silverthorn says:

      Hi Judi. Glad to hear you’re progressing well. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to get your full range of motion back. They told me I never would, but I was faithful with my stretching and exercises and today you’d never know I had an injury. The only thing that tips it off is the scar. Massaging Vitamin E cream into the scar really helps with discomfort and appearance. Best of luck to you!

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