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Scaphoid Fracture

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 4, 2023.

What is a scaphoid fracture?

A scaphoid fracture is a break in one of the small bones of your wrist.

What are the signs and symptoms of a scaphoid fracture?

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Trouble moving your wrist or thumb
  • Swelling where your wrist meets your thumb

How is a scaphoid fracture diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your hand and wrist, and check for tenderness. He or she will ask about the pain, and how you hurt your wrist. You may need any of the following:

  • X-rays are used to check for a broken scaphoid bone.
  • An MRI or CT scan are used to check for a broken bone or other problems. You may be given contrast liquid to help an injury show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a scaphoid fracture treated?

  • A splint or cast may be put on your wrist and hand to decrease movement. These hold the broken bones in place, decrease pain, and prevent more damage to your wrist.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Surgery may be needed if the broken bone is out of place, or if it does not heal properly.

How can I manage a scaphoid fracture and help my wrist heal?

  • Apply ice on your wrist for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it. Ice helps prevent tissue damage, and decreases pain and swelling.
  • Elevate your wrist above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease pain and swelling. Prop your wrist on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage and slow healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Go to physical or occupational therapy as directed. A physical or occupational therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your fingers or thumb tingle or are numb or cold, or turn blue or white.
  • You have severe pain in your hand or wrist, or your pain worsens.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.