The wrist is composed of 10 bones and various ligaments that connect these bones. When a wrist injury occurs, it can break bones or stretch and tear ligaments, both causing similar symptoms. If you fall on an outstretched arm or injure your wrist while playing sports, you may not be sure whether you sprained or broke your wrist. Here are some similarities and differences between a wrist sprain and a fracture.
Symptoms of a Wrist Sprain
Sprains occur when ligaments are stretched too far. They can be torn partially or completely, which can be very painful. When the hand is forced backward or forward, it can tear ligaments. This can happen during a fall, vehicle accident, bicycle/motorcycle crash, or while playing sports. A wrist sprain can display the following symptoms:
- Limited movement
Due to swelling and ligament damage, wrist sprains can result in limited wrist and hand movement. However, although it may be painful, you should be able to move your wrist. The wrist should appear normal in shape except for swelling. If a ligament is completely torn, you may be able to see a bulge under the skin.
Symptoms of a Broken Wrist
Since there are ten bones in the wrist, eight of them small bones, wrist fractures are very common. Impact on the hand or wrist can fracture one of the little carpal bones – the scaphoid carpal bone by the thumb is the most commonly fractured wrist bone. The ends of the two forearm bones can also be broken. The radius, the larger inner forearm bone, is often fractured where it connects to the wrist during an outstretched arm fall.
If you have a broken wrist, it may have similar symptoms to a sprain. You will have pain, swelling, and limited movement. Depending on the fractured bones, you may also have other symptoms. These can include:
- Inability to flex or move the wrist
- Obvious deformity
- Bone exiting the skin
- Tingling or numbness in your hand or fingers
- Tender to the touch
A severe wrist fracture will likely also have sprained ligaments. This occurs when the broken bones are displaced and tear the ligaments when they shift in the wrong direction.
Treatment for Wrist Injuries
Most wrist sprains can be treated with rest, ice, and elevation, but wrist fractures require medical treatment. However, even if you think your injury is only a sprain, it is vital to have your wrist examined by a doctor. There are nerves that run through your wrist that can be damaged and cause permanent hand mobility issues, especially if there is a fractured bone that needs treatment.
Severe wrist injuries can require surgery to repair ligaments or broken bones. If you have a severely broken wrist and orthopedic surgery is required, contact the office of Steven Struhl, MD – Shoulders & Knees. Call our New York or Westchester office to schedule a broken wrist consultation with Dr. Struhl.