Stiff fingers and wrist after distal radius surgery

Posted by ElaineG @elaineg1, Mar 4, 2018

I had 2 surgeries on a crushed wrist, the bone slipped and had to be redone. I’m 66 and have had no experience with this issue. I am in physical therapy but my fingers won’t bend and wrist won’t bend up or down.

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Bones, Joints & Muscles group.

Hi Elaine, welcome back to Connect. I moved your message to the Bones, Joints & Muscles group so you can meet other members who may have had a similar experience with distal radius surgery and stiff fingers. I'm bringing @leslie324 @rannie @magigar and @TonyHart87 into the conversation in the hopes that they'll have something to add.

In the meantime, Elaine, we look forward to getting to know more about you. It must be so frustrating to not see improvement even with physical therapy. How long ago did you have the surgery redone and how long have you been doing physio?

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Hey Elaine, So sorry to hear about your wrist. I know how frustrating it can be to have wrist issues with how much we use our hands everyday. Sometimes your doctor or therapist gives you a range of expected recovery when such an issue happens (such as you are expected to have 70-80% of mobility back), so you should certainly ask when you see them next. It's much more comforting knowing instead of expecting it to be back to 100% or "normal". Are you experiencing pain or just inflexibility? Is it getting better with physical therapy?

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I had surgery for a distal radius fracture Nov 30, 2021. I have been receiving OT since the beginning of December 2021. My fingers are very stiff and will only bend partially after receiving heat and massage. I am very weak. Are you still having problems with stiffness?

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My doctor is reluctant to prescribe more therapy. How long did you receive therapy?

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@udy

My doctor is reluctant to prescribe more therapy. How long did you receive therapy?

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Welcome @udy, From what I've read , recovery from wrist surgery can take as long as 4 to 6 months. My wife broke her wrist Oct 11th, 2021 and had therapy sessions 2 to 3 weeks apart after the initial meeting with the therapist who gave her specific exercises to do at home. She also had to use hand weights to help strengthen the wrist.

Did the therapist give you exercises to do at home along with ones to help strength and flexibility?

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@udy

My doctor is reluctant to prescribe more therapy. How long did you receive therapy?

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My 40-something daughter is going through this right now after a severe open fracture, 2 surgeries, hardware and bone grafts. She describes her progress as "up to 70%, back to 40%, up to 70% again, back to 50%…" Her hand surgeon is pleased with her progress (after 10 months) due to the severity of the injury, and expects her ultimate recovery to be in the range of 80%. She is still receiving therapy once a week, and doing home exercise twice a day. But her early therapy was very limited, and only after 10 weeks after the second surgery was she allowed to begin.
How long were you prescribed therapy? Is everything fully healed internally?
Sue

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@sueinmn

My 40-something daughter is going through this right now after a severe open fracture, 2 surgeries, hardware and bone grafts. She describes her progress as "up to 70%, back to 40%, up to 70% again, back to 50%…" Her hand surgeon is pleased with her progress (after 10 months) due to the severity of the injury, and expects her ultimate recovery to be in the range of 80%. She is still receiving therapy once a week, and doing home exercise twice a day. But her early therapy was very limited, and only after 10 weeks after the second surgery was she allowed to begin.
How long were you prescribed therapy? Is everything fully healed internally?
Sue

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I received therapy twice a week a week after my surgery. Initially therapy was focused on reducing the massive swelling in my fingers and hands. After six to eight weeks after surgery according to x-rays the doctor said my wrist was fully healed, but I had limited use of my wrist and fingers. I had difficulty picking up a washcloth. I have improved, but I cannot fully bend my fingers or wrist and I do not have enough strength to clip my fingernails. After therapy I have more movement in my hand, but then it does not take long for my fingers to become very stiff. I have had therapy for 6 months now. The up and down progress described your daughter echoes my experience.

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@johnbishop

Welcome @udy, From what I've read , recovery from wrist surgery can take as long as 4 to 6 months. My wife broke her wrist Oct 11th, 2021 and had therapy sessions 2 to 3 weeks apart after the initial meeting with the therapist who gave her specific exercises to do at home. She also had to use hand weights to help strengthen the wrist.

Did the therapist give you exercises to do at home along with ones to help strength and flexibility?

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Yes John, I have home exercises that I do at home. I do not use any weights at this time. I am still too weak. I wear a compression glove that helps me move and build up a little strength when my fingers get stiff. It has been 6 months since my surgery. The fact that I am able to slowly type this message is improvement. I now have enough strength to open my laptop and push the keys. I can't put my fingers in typing position, but I can press the keys now.

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I had a small surgery called DIP, on the fractured joint of my little finger. Three months out, still in a LOT of pain. It is not infected, but somewhat swollen. My primary doctor does not think it should hurt this much. Does anyone know how long the pain will last?

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@maryflorida

I had a small surgery called DIP, on the fractured joint of my little finger. Three months out, still in a LOT of pain. It is not infected, but somewhat swollen. My primary doctor does not think it should hurt this much. Does anyone know how long the pain will last?

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Hi Mary, I have found that for small bones, fingers can take a long time to heal and for pain to go away. Was there any hardware?

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Sue, there is a plastic screw inserted to hold the bone parts together. What troubles me is that he did not suggest a splint and then later on, he got upset that I was not wearing one, and he wanted me to get a splint 2 months after the surgery. My husband said he thought that was too late to get one. What do you think? The pain still requires I take a pain pill once a day and I just try to be distracted other than that one pill. If three months is not too long, I can endure it, but I just don't know if it is normal. Should I just go ahead and get one of those plastic "finger cots" (they used to call them) at this late date? Thank you for helping us patients.

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@maryflorida

Sue, there is a plastic screw inserted to hold the bone parts together. What troubles me is that he did not suggest a splint and then later on, he got upset that I was not wearing one, and he wanted me to get a splint 2 months after the surgery. My husband said he thought that was too late to get one. What do you think? The pain still requires I take a pain pill once a day and I just try to be distracted other than that one pill. If three months is not too long, I can endure it, but I just don't know if it is normal. Should I just go ahead and get one of those plastic "finger cots" (they used to call them) at this late date? Thank you for helping us patients.

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Hi Mary – "foreign matter" (the plastic screw) in your hand is probably part of the pain cause – has the doctor said whether it can be removed after healing?
As for the splint issue – I always defer to the hand therapist – not the doctor, Connect, my spouse, or anyone else. As the expert who picks up where the doctor is done, they can best tell you whether a splint will help now. And I would definitely have one custom made if recommended. In my experience, plastic finger cots are usually not adequate.
Do you have a hand therapist you can consult with, even by telephone?
Sue

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