The wrist is a commonly seen injured joint in the body. Problems include sprains and strains as well as fractures, which can occur with lifting and carrying heavy objects, while operating machinery, bracing against a fall, or from sports-related injuries.
Common Wrist Injuries
Some of the common wrist injuries include:
Sprains and Strains: Sprains and strains are the two most common types of injuries affecting the wrist. A sprain refers to an injury to a ligament and a strain refers to a muscle injury. Sprains and strains occur due to excessive force applied during a stretching, twisting or thrusting action. Most sprains and strains will repair themselves with adequate rest, ice application, compression and elevation. Pain medication and NSAIDs may be prescribed to keep you comfortable. Surgery is occasionally required to repair the damage.
Ligamentous Injuries: Ligaments are tissues that connect bones to other bones. They are made up of several fibers and one or all the fibers may be involved. Complete ligament injury occurs when all the fibers are torn. A ligament injury may cause pain and swelling and limit the movement of wrist joints. Ligament injuries are effectively treated with splinting and taping with restriction of movement of the injured structures.
Fractures: A fracture is a break in the bone which occurs when more force than the bearable limit is applied against a bone. Crushing injuries to the wrist occur due to high degrees of force or pressure and may also cause fractures. A fracture may cause severe pain, swelling, bruising or bleeding, discoloration of the skin and limit the mobility of the limb. Fractures of the wrist bones can be treated by using a cast or splint while the bone heals. Sometimes surgery may be needed where plates, pins or screws may be placed to keep the joint stable while healing.
Repetitive Trauma Syndrome: Repetitive stress injury occurs because of repeated similar movements for long periods of time. This often causes pressure on the joints, resulting in inflammation, pain and decreased function in the extremity. The condition is more likely to develop with repetitive, rapid, forceful and prolonged movements of the wrist, or from vibration or frequent pushing, pulling or carrying heavy objects. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common of these syndromes.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by numbness or pain in the thumb and first two fingers, and occurs when the median nerve is compressed at the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often a common complaint in individuals who use their hands for prolonged periods of time in an occupation such as computer work. Immobilization of the affected part for a certain period may help heal the condition. Medications, physical therapy, and surgery may also be recommended. Often, splinting for a short period of time can treat the condition.
Wrist Arthritis: Injury, infection, and diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can damage or wear out the articular cartilage. This may cause the wrist bones to rub against each other producing pain, stiffness and swelling of the wrist. Nonsurgical treatment methods for relieving pain in an arthritic joint include activity modification, pain medications, NSAIDs, and use of splints and steroid injections. Surgery is usually considered if nonsurgical treatments fail to provide relief, and may include joint replacement and fusion.