Scaphoid Fracture – How Physiotherapy Returns Strength & Mobility to a Broken Risk

Monday, March 07, 2016

A scaphoid fracture is a break in one of the small bones of the wrist, that’s quite common in icy weather and during sports activities.  It usually happens when you fall heavily on an outstretched hand.


  • Severe wrist pain at the time of injury on the thumb side
  • An aching wrist at night or in the morning
  • Swelling and pain when you press on the thumb side of the wrist
  • Reduced grip and weight-bearing pain on the affected wrist


A thorough examination from a physiotherapist is essential to diagnose a scaphoid fracture and an X-ray, MRI, CT scan or bone scan is often required to confirm the diagnosis.


The fracture is usually immobilised in a plaster cast for about 8 weeks.  Following this, the doctor will assess the healing process with X-rays.  This is important to check whether the blood supply to your wrist has been damaged, because this can cause delayed healing or complications.  Occasionally, surgery may be needed to align wrist bones that aren’t healing well.

Physiotherapy for a scaphoid fracture

After the plaster cast comes off and the doctor confirms your wrist is healing properly, physiotherapy is the most important factor in regaining your pre-injury strength and mobility.

Don’t put any pressure at all on the healing wrist, because this will cause damage and prevent healing.  And don’t do anything that causes your wrist to hurt for the same reasons.  Your physiotherapist will use pain-free manipulation techniques to increase flexibility and strengthening exercises to return normal muscle strength. 

Physiotherapy treatment is vital to speed up healing and prevent you developing a weak wrist that will be vulnerable to injury in the future.  Your tailor-made physio treatment plan can include:

  • Massage
  • Joint manipulation
  • Ultrasound
  • Exercises to improve strength and flexibility
  • Activity modification esp. for sports participants
  • A graduated ‘return to sports/daily activity’ plan

Physiotherapy treatments increase blood flow, improve muscle strength and break down early scar tissue that could restrict mobility.   And you’ll heal faster if you follow the exercises your physio asks you to do at home - regularly!

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