CHICAGO --- Wrist fractures have an important personal and public health impact and may play a role in the development of disability in older people, according to a Northwestern University study published by the British Medical Journal.   Beatrice Edwards, M.D., associate professor of geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, was the lead author of the study.

Wrist fractures are the most common upper extremity fractures in older adults and can affect everyday tasks like carrying heavy objects, opening doors, cutting food, pouring liquid, turning the key and getting out of a chair. But their precise impact on ability to carry out usual daily activities has not been well studied, until now.

Edwards and a team of researchers set out to quantify the clinical impact of wrist fractures in a group of older women.They identified 6,107 healthy women, aged 65 years and older, without prior wrist or hip fracture. Five activities of daily living were used as a measure of functional decline (meal preparation, heavy housekeeping, ability to climb 10 stairs, shopping and getting out of a car). Participants were examined approximately every two years for an average of 7.6 years.

During the study period, 268 women had a wrist fracture. These women were approximately 50 percent more likely to experience clinically important functional decline compared to women without a wrist fracture, even after accounting for demographic, health and lifestyle factors.  In fact, the effect of a wrist fracture on functional decline was clinically as significant as other established risk factors such as falls, diabetes and arthritis.

"Our findings highlight the personal, public health and policy implications of wrist fractures," said Edwards, who is also the director of the bone health and osteoporosis program at Northwestern.   They call for greater public health awareness of the impact of wrist fractures, including measures such as bone density screening and treatment of women with osteoporosis, to prevent wrist fractures and prompt rehabilitation after a wrist fracture to help improve recovery.

By  Erin White. Contact her at


I found that regular exercise is one of the areas for keeping mobile and keeping strength in the joints of the body. I want to share this with my twitter group, is that ok?

Your study confirms how important our hands are. They are used throughout the day for important tasks. After a fracture rehab is needed, as is continued maintenance of flexibility and strength after rehab. Mr. Tatler's wife can be helped with rehab by seeing an occupational therapist, even years after a wrist fracture. She would then benefit from forearm exercises and wrist exercises, including stretches and wrist strengthening. The maintenance work after rehab can be done in just a few minutes a day.

I suffered a wrist fracture while I was working as an holistic therapist and I agree (even being younger) that it does affect everyday activity. I found that regular exercise is one of the areas for keeping mobile and keeping strength in the joints of the body so that you are less prone to more factures. Karen

As a physical therapist I would like to know exactly what causes the wrist fracture. In my experience the typical cause is a fall. And, falls are highly related to decline in function. Whether the fall results in a wrist fracture or a hip fracture, it is an indication of reduced strength and function. Another reason what all people, including the elderly, should perform strength and balance exercises on a regular basis.

Thanks for your post. May I share it with my blog readers with the reference to your blog?

A wrist fracture is something that cannot be overlooked when dealing with a job related work disability. Good write up and study on this.

I know from personal experience (with my mother) that wrist fractures really can slow you down later in life. Therefore they should be taken seriously - so much so get a second opinion if you are in any doubts about the treatment you are receiving for one.

Wow, your post was extremely enlightening. I have to admit that I was always very concerned about the impact of a hip fracture on an elderly person. I never considered the affect of a wrist fracture. Now I can see that the consequences are as severe. Thank you for the information. Jo Chris

The problem on this is that we, the public, aren't even aware of preventative measures. With all of the more important and more newsworthy public health issues, this one falls to the way side. Maybe we need to turn to our internist for leadership in monitoring our bone density.

My wife suffer wrist fractures years ago and now is having difficulties in even lifting a cup. How should I help her?

Didn't know wrist injuries were the most common injuries in elderly. I think a wrist brace can help an elderly person heal and protect against further injury. Maybe some of these elderly people are not getting fully healed before continuing there daily activities. I hope not. We have good information there as well. Thanks

Good information! It is important for women to get screened for bone density to help prevent problems.

A prior client of mine suffered a severe wrist and hand injury from a fall at a clothing store. Despite her subsequent recovery, her hand did not heal fully. She was not able to grab items nor play the piano for an extended time after her injury.

Nice post!! Regular exercise and proper intake of calcium are some of the ways for keeping your joints mobile and keeping strength in the joints of the body so that you are less prone to more fractures.

It's not only the wrist fracture but sometimes the shunt into the elbow can cause a lot of ongoing problems.

This is excellent information for all women! We need to take care of ourselves!

Wrist fracture is an awful problem to have (I know from personal experience with my mother) and it is very difficult to find good related posts. Well done for having such an informative blog.

Great post, it is essential to know what we need to take care of...especially for preventative measures. I love playing the piano and fracturing a wrist would definitely impede on what I love to do.

great information - women needs to be screened often to prevent a lot of health problems.

I am also seeing a lot of wrist injuries in the younger generation....I wonder if it is as a result of more fragile bones... EDITOR'S NOTE: IS there any relationship to all the texting, etc?

Thanks for this blog--in many auto accidents we see clients with this type of personal injury--we will pass your information on to our clients similar injuries--Thanks

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