The Comprehensive Guide to Wrist Injuries
Any type of injury can put a cramp in your lifestyle. Whether you are active in sports, around town, or at the gym, it's difficult when you have an injury that prevents you from doing the things you love. Wrist injuries are some of the more painful injuries that you may encounter. You use your hand and wrist for just about everything you do; so when your wrist is hurting, then it can really hinder how you manage life.
Just as it is with many types of injuries, sometimes you have to wait it out until you are healed, and waiting can be challenging. However, while you're waiting, you can learn some best practices to facilitate a smooth healing process, and you may even help push the process along a little faster. First, it's important to understand a bit more about wrist injuries.
TYPES OF WRIST INJURIES & SYMPTOMS
When you're feeling a lot of discomfort in your wrist, it's because you have either injured it or you have a chronic problem.
An injury to the wrist is usually a sprain, strain, or even a fracture. Although, if you fractured it, you'd most likely be at the hospital due to the pain. So, let's look at sprains and strains. With a strain, the muscle in the wrist is inflamed, irritated, and causing a good deal of pain. However, with a sprain, the ligaments become stretched or even tore from the injury.
The symptoms of a wrist injury may include any of the following:
- Pain and stiffness
- Swelling and tenderness in the affected area
- Bruising or redness
- Difficult moving the wrist (limited motion)
- Popping in the wrist
- Weak grasp and difficulty grabbing hold of items
Sprains are more serious than strains and even they range from mild, Grade I to more severe, Grade III. The difference between a Grade I injury and a Grade III injury is with the former, the ligament is only somewhat damaged and with the latter, the ligament is completely torn.
HOW DO WRIST INJURIES HAPPEN?
People who play in sports are more prone to getting a wrist injury. However, anyone can get one. If you take a fall and happen to throw out your hand instinctively to catch yourself, then there's a good chance you'll have an injury to your wrist. When this happens, your wrist takes the brunt of the fall, and you will likely bend your wrist back in the process.
During sports, some people get a wrist injury from being hit in the wrist with an object. Maybe it's a ball or something else that's part of the game. Another way you can injure your wrist is by twisting it around too suddenly or putting too much pressure on it.
OTHER CAUSES OF WRIST PAIN
Injuries aren't the only reason people may feel an ache in their wrist. Some other conditions that may lead to this painful condition are:
The painful aching and swelling may indicate arthritis. There are two types of arthritis but both are distinguishable from each other by their symptoms.
- Osteoarthritis is not common unless you've had a wrist injury in the past. In that case, the ends of the bone may break down over time.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is related to the immune system, and most times you'll have both wrists affected, not just one.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
This condition occurs when a nerve becomes compressed. Often times, repetitive types of work that involve using the wrist will cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Repetitive motion syndrome
This is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. When you do the same repetitive motion over and over, it can lead to swelling of the ligaments. This swelling results in pressure on the nerve.
Tendons connect the muscles and bones together. They are flexible and fibrous. However, with repeated activity such as playing certain sports, the tendons become overworked. This strains the tendons and they can become inflamed.
This condition is similar to tendonitis. However, with bursitis, there are sacs filled with fluid that are between the joints, muscles, and ligaments. They buffer everything and make sure it's well-cushioned. When they get inflamed, then you have the painful condition of bursitis.
HEALING FROM A WRIST INJURY
Healing from a wrist injury takes time, rest, and proper healing methods. The time it will take to feel back to normal again depends on how severe the injury was. If you are living with a chronic pain condition, then it will depend on what type it is. Something like arthritis may be ongoing whereas bursitis can clear up. So, let's take a look at some best practices for healing a wrist sprain, strain, or something like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and so on.
Rest is your friend
Although we may not like to rest, rest really is your friend in times like these. You may be tempted to ignore the dull, aching throb of the wrist pain, but it's important to give yourself some time to heal. Now, that doesn't mean you have to baby your wrist. On the contrary, too much sedentary activity may cause your wrist to stiffen up and not heal fast enough. But in the beginning stages, especially with an injury, you need to take it easy. So, don't be grabbing for the tennis racket or the baseball bat just yet. Give your wrist a little downtime.
Ice it if you catch it in time
Ice is great to help reduce swelling, but that will only be effective if you catch the problem in the beginning stages. When you first get injured, that's when you need to put ice on your wrist. If you wait a few days, it doesn't have quite the same effect. It may help numb the pain but it won't have the immediate effect of reducing swelling.
Wrap that wrist regularly
Using a wrist brace is an excellent way to speed up healing. In addition, it helps alleviate pain by providing compression to the wrist as well as stabilizing the muscles and bones. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive motion syndrome, then using a wrist stabilizer is essential to ensure you don't do added damage to your wrist.
You can also use a wrap on your wrist after you've had a cast removed to make sure you have smooth healing.
Gentle exercises if you can
When it comes to exercising or stretching your wrist, there are two things to keep in mind:
- Check with your physician or physical therapist first.
- Preventive exercises are best when it comes to repetitive motion problems including carpal tunnel syndrome.
With those two things in mind, a few stretching exercises are helpful if you know you don't have a serious strain or sprain. If you are struggling with pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive motion syndrome, then gently stretching your wrists regularly may help prevent further problems. If you have a mild strain to your wrist (not a sprain), then your physical therapist may give the green light for some of these exercises as well.
- Praying hands exercise: With your palms touching each other in a "praying" position in front of your face and your elbow together, slowly lower your hands down to your stomach while spreading apart your elbows. Then put one arm straight out with your palm facing the ground and let your wrist drop toward the floor. With your other hand gently pull your fingers toward you and hold for a few seconds.
- Desk push: Put your palm on the bottom of a desk, and push up. Hold for 10 seconds, then release.
- Stress ball squeeze: Squeeze a stress ball or even a tennis ball for a few seconds at a time.
Meds, if needed
Of course, when you're in a lot of pain, you may need some medicine. If you have inflammation, Ibuprofen or Motrin helps reduce that. However, check with your physician if you think there is any reason that medication is not right for you. Always be sure to follow the guidelines on the bottle closely with the medication.
Wrist pain can be challenging to deal with, but with the proper care, you'll be back in the swing of things in no time. Be easy on yourself and remember preventative methods may help you avoid injury in the future.
For one thing, you can build strength in your wrists with exercises. In addition, whether you have weak wrists or not, if you use your hands a lot in sport or other activities, it's wise to wear a wrist wrap. There are several varieties from which to choose that will fit the situation. Some are thin for everyday use, while others have a built-in splint for injuries.
At Mueller Sports Medicine, we offer a broad range of high-quality products for your pain problems and injuries. Our expert staff is ready to assist you in finding just the right product for your issue. Get in touch with us today for more information.