What is medical realignment of the hand or wrist?

Your hands and wrists have many small bones that help them move. Sometimes these bones, and the bones in your elbow joint, can move out of their normal positions. They can break, or fracture, which means the bones crack or split completely into two or more pieces. The bones can also dislocate. When this happens, one of your joints gets forced out of its normal position. This also forces the bones that attach to the joint out of their normal positions. Both injuries can be very painful.

Medical realignment is a procedure that doctors do to put fractured or dislocated bones back into place. This reduces pain. It also helps your arm, wrist or elbow start working normally again once the injury has healed. Realignment may require surgery. Your doctor may also be able to move the bones back into place without an operation.

What to expect from medical realignment from the hand or wrist

Your doctor takes X-ray pictures of the bones in your hand or arm to see how severe the fracture or dislocation is. If possible, your doctor may gently move the bones and joint back into alignment right in their office. They may numb your hand, wrist or elbow with medicine. That way, you don't feel pain while the doctor moves the bones back into place. This is more common for a dislocation.

If your injury is more severe or complicated, you may need surgery. Your doctor might want you to be fully asleep under general anesthesia. However, doctors often do surgical realignment with local anesthesia. That means you get an injection of medication that only numbs your arm. The doctor makes an incision over the fracture or dislocation and moves the bones back into place. You may need screws or plates to hold the bones together while they heal.

Once your bones and joints are back in their proper places, you need to wear a cast, splint or sling. These devices help keep your arm still so the fracture or dislocation can heal. You may need to wear the cast or splint for up to six weeks. After three weeks or so, your doctor may have you do physical therapy. The exercises you do in physical therapy help your hand, wrist or elbow move normally again.

Common hand and wrist conditions requiring medical realignment

Fractures and dislocations are common conditions that may need medical realignment to heal. These injuries can happen for several reasons. Some of the most common include:

  • Falling on your hand, wrist or elbow
  • Twisting your wrist or arm the wrong way
  • Getting hit or making contact while playing sports
  • Having something heavy land on your hand, wrist or elbow, which results in a crush injury

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