What are Breaks, Fractures & Sprains?
- A sprain is an injury to a ligament.
- A wrist sprain is a common injury and occurs when the wrist is bent forcefully, such as in a fall onto an outstretched hand
- Wrist sprains can range from mild to severe
A sprain is an injury to a ligament. Ligaments are bands of connective tissue that connect one bone to another.
A wrist sprain is a common injury. There are many ligaments in the wrist that can be stretched or torn, resulting in a sprain. Sprains occur when the wrist is bent forcefully, such as in a fall onto an outstretched hand
Wrist sprains can range from mild to severe. Depending on the degree of injury, they are graded:
- Grade 1. These mild sprains occur when the ligaments are stretched, but not torn.
- Grade 2. These moderate sprains occur when the ligaments are partially torn. Grade 2 sprains may involve some loss of function.
- Grade 3. These severe sprains occur when the ligament is completely torn.
Wrist sprains are usually caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand. This might happen during everyday activities, but most often occurs during sports and outdoor recreation.
Our Treatment Approach
Mild wrist sprains can usually be treated at home with the RICE protocol.
- R Rest the joint for at least 48 hours.
- I Ice the injury to reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Use an ice pack or wrap a towel around the ice or a package of frozen vegetables. Apply ice for about 20 minutes at a time.
- C Compress the swelling with an elastic bandage.
- E Elevate the injury above the level of the heart.
A pain reliever, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may be helpful. If pain and swelling persist for more than 48 hours, however, see a doctor.
Moderate sprains usually need to be immobilized with a wrist splint or “ace” bandage for 1 or more weeks. This immobilization can cause stiffness in your wrist and your doctor may recommend stretching exercises to help you regain full mobility.
Severe sprains may require surgery to repair the torn ligament. Surgery generally involves reconnecting the ligament to the bone. Your doctor will discuss the surgical options that best meet the needs of your injury.
Breaks and Fractures
Many times, the bones can be realigned by manipulating them without surgery. A cast, splint or fracture-brace is used to immobilize the bones and hold them in place. A cast will probably extend from the fingertips down past the wrist almost to the elbow. This ensures that the bones remain in place with no movement.
A second set of X-rays will probably be taken about a week later. These X-rays are used to ensure that the bones have stayed in the proper position.
The cast will be worn for three to six weeks. Gentle hand exercises can probably be started after about three weeks.
Some hand fractures may require surgery to stabilize and align the bones. These fractures generally break through the skin or are the result of a crushing accident. An orthopaedic surgeon can implant wires, screws, or plates in the broken bone to hold the pieces of the fractured bone in place.
Breaks, fractures and sprains are most often caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand. This might happen during everyday activities, but frequently occurs during sports and outdoor recreation.
Symptoms of a wrist sprain may vary in intensity and location. The most common symptoms of a wrist sprain include:
- Bruising or discoloration of the skin around the wrist
- Swelling in the wrist
- Pain at the time of the injury
- Persistent pain when you move your wrist
- Tenderness at the injury site
- A feeling of popping or tearing inside the wrist
- A warm or feverish feeling to the skin around the wrist
Sometimes, a wrist injury may seem mild with very little swelling, but it could be that an important ligament has been torn that will require surgery to avoid problems later.
A fracture may be mistakenly considered a mild or moderately sprained wrist. If left untreated, the broken bone may not heal and will require a surgery.