In January this year, local childcare worker Jenny McInerney fell off her mountain bike and injured her left wrist. While initial x-rays showed no broken bones, she experienced ongoing pain with daily activities. Like many scaphoid fractures, her symptoms were subtle – the area around the injury was not noticeably swollen or intensely painful. According to Flex Out Physiotherapy Hand Therapist Jennie Graetz, “because a scaphoid fracture can have relatively subtle symptoms, they are often mistaken for a sprain, and can remain undiagnosed for months or years, leading to long-term consequences such as stiffness, weakness and painful arthritis. ”Lucky for Jenny however, she did
seek further assessment and, after a discussion about her history, a thorough examination, and a second x-ray, a fracture in the scaphoid bone in her wrist was found.”
Scaphoid fractures are usually caused by a fall on the outstretched hand, and occur most often in young, active patients. Frequently, the injury occurs in sporting events such as skiing, snowboarding or football, although it can also occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident or similar traumatic force on the hand and wrist. Ms Graetz notes that “extra vigilance should be paid to every wrist injury, since the subtle symptoms of a scaphoid fracture, in addition to its complicated shape and precarious blood supply, can lead to a failure of the two fractured bone ends to heal (also called a nonunion).”
In this instance Jenny went on to have surgery and is now recovering under the guidance of the hand therapy team at Flex Out Physiotherapy. “Initially, her treatment involved protecting the surgery with a splint. We had to control swelling, pain and manage her wound. Gradually Jenny has regained movement and now, at three months after surgery, she is progressing to strengthening of the wrist.”
As part of Hand Therapy Awareness Week, Flex Out Hand Therapists, Libby Gilson and Jennie Graetz, aim to raise awareness of the hand therapy specialty among the community. This is an initiative of the Australian Hand Therapy Association and a chance to highlight the role that Hand Therapists play in the specialised management of upper limb conditions. “Helping patients like Jenny diagnose their shoulder to hand problems, and recover function, is what we love to do.” June 6-12th 2016 is Hand Therapy Awareness Week.