I am typing this with one hand because I still can't use my right hand very well. It's been a year since I broke that wrist. I can't lift a heavy pot or swing a hammer. Is this normal?
Possibly. Decreased hand strength and difficulty with lifting or heavier work hase been reported by surgeons who follow their patients after wrist fractures. Reports are that grip strength in older adults is only 75 per cent of normal a full year after treatment for wrist fractures. There's a gradual progression of return in strength. Two months after the injury and treatment, grip strength is usually about 30 per cent of the other hand. Six months later, grip strength has doubled and will be about two-thirds of the uninjured hand. And, as mentioned, grip strength is around 75 per cent of normal by the end of 12 months.
Some of the results may depend on the type of fracture, age of the patient, and type of treatment. Sorting out all the possible variables is an ongoing process. We know that displaced (separated) fractures can take longer to heal and recover from than simple undisplaced wrist fractures.
Immobilization with plaster cast versus external fixation (pins outside the arm) doesn't seem to make much difference. Range of motion, grip strength, pain, and function are the same between patients in groups treated with one versus the other.
Before assuming you are on the right track and within normal limits, it's always a good idea to check back with your surgeon to make sure there isn't something else going on. It's possible a short course of rehab and exercise under the supervision of a physical or occupational therapist is needed. Your surgeon will be able to advise you on this. If you don't have a follow-up appointment scheduled, it might be a good time to make one.
Zoltan FÃ¶ldhazy and Leif Ahrengart. External Fixation Versus Closed Treatment of Displaced Distal Radial Fractures in Elderly Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. May/June 2010. Vol. 21. No. 3. Pp. 288-295.
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