The wrist is a hard-working joint that attaches the hand to the arm. Wrist pain is a common complaint, as the wrist performs many functions and absorbs a large amount of pressure during daily activities. The injury diagnosis and treatment vary based on the cause of the injury along with the symptoms that are present. Wrist injuries result from a wide variety of factors, from sports injuries to repetitive movement.
The symptoms of wrist pain vary based on the type of injury. A ligament tear or sprain will present symptoms of swelling and pain that worsen as the wrist is used. The wrist may pop or you may be unable to fully use your wrist. Tendinitis or a repetitive strain injury in the wrist has the symptoms of pain and swelling due to tendons being inflamed. A fracture to the wrist bone shows signs of swelling, inability to fully use the wrist, and discoloured skin. A full break will cause a deformed look to the wrist with a possible bone protrusion. Carpal tunnel syndrome has numbness and tingling in the wrist area along with pain that radiates up the arm. In some cases your wrist will feel weak, with your fingers losing sensation at times.
Ligament sprains, cartilage tears and fractures are generally the result of an impact to the wrist area, usually when the hand is outstretched. Pushing something hard or falling are common causes. A repetitive strain injury occurs from constant use of the wrist in the same motion for long stretches of time. Playing tennis, driving long distances, or repetitive use of a violin or cello bow are can cause this injury. Carpal tunnel occurs from an increase in pressure to the median nerve. Poor wrist posture or bad ergodynamics when doing repetitive tasks is a cause of this injury.
Most wrist injuries are diagnosed through an examination of medical history along with an examination of the wrist area. In some cases additional testing may be needed. An x-ray will diagnose a fracture or break while an MRI or CAT scan views soft tissue to diagnose damage to ligaments or nerves.
Minor damage to the wrist caused by sprains or small tears to the ligaments or cartilage will heal with a treatment of rest, ice or cold treatments and an anti-inflammatory medication. A torn ligament may also be splinted to prevent excess movement during healing. Repetitive strain injuries are similar in treatment, requiring a splint along with anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling. In the case of a severely torn ligament or cartilage, surgery is required for proper healing. Factures are treated with a wrist cast worn a minimum of six weeks. Due to wrist actions, a full break may require screws to hold the bone in place.
Injuries to the wrist are prevented by wearing proper protective gear for the wrists during sports and activities. Falling on a hand or wrist is a major contributor to wrist pain. Wear shoes that are sturdy to prevent tripping and be aware that falling on an open hand causes impact injury. Posture and ergonomic devices are important for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries.