Contributing writer: Caroline Le Quesne
Wrist injuries are a common occurrence in both sports and everyday life. Understanding the complexity of the wrist is crucial to grasp the potential risks and long-term consequences associated with these injuries.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore different types of wrist injuries, their symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and the recovery process to ensure you have a well-rounded understanding of wrist injuries.
Types of Wrist Injuries
The wrist is a complex joint composed of small carpal bones, ligaments, tendons, and neurovascular structures. Understanding the various types of wrist injuries can help in recognising the symptoms and seeking appropriate treatment. Here are some common types of wrist injuries:
Fractures, such as distal radius fractures and scaphoid fractures, are often caused by falls on an outstretched hand (FOOSH). Distal radius fractures, the most common type, typically require immobilisation with a cast or may require surgical intervention.
Scaphoid fractures, though less common, can be challenging to diagnose and may require specialised imaging techniques.
Joint dislocations, including lunate dislocations, can occur after a fall on a flexed wrist. Understanding the mechanisms of these injuries can aid in early recognition and prompt treatment.
Overuse and Chronic Injuries
Certain conditions can develop due to repetitive stress, overuse, or underlying anatomical factors. These include:
How Can Physiotherapy Help Wrist Injuries?
Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of wrist injuries. Here’s how physiotherapy can help:
Comprehensive Assessment and Diagnosis
A qualified physiotherapist will conduct a thorough assessment, including a detailed history and physical examination, to determine the underlying causes and structures involved in the wrist injury.
Specialised tests, imaging, or referrals to orthopaedic specialists may be recommended for accurate diagnosis.
Customised Treatment Plans
Based on the assessment findings, physiotherapists develop tailored treatment plans to address pain relief, promote healing, and restore optimal wrist function. Treatment modalities may include:
- Manual therapy: Soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, and other hands-on techniques to alleviate pain and improve tissue mobility.
- Exercise therapy: Prescribing specific exercises to strengthen the wrist, improve range of motion, and promote functional recovery.
- Pain management: Collaborating with doctors to explore pharmacological options for pain relief if necessary.
Education and Advice
Physiotherapists provide valuable information about the nature of the injury, the healing process, and self-management strategies. This empowers individuals to take an active role in their recovery, understand activity modification strategies, and prevent re-injury.
As the wrist heals, physiotherapists guide patients through a progressive rehabilitation program. This includes gradually increasing exercise intensity, functional movement retraining, and sport-specific exercises to restore optimal wrist function and prevent recurrence.
Sprained Wrist Symptoms
A sprained wrist is a common type of wrist injury that occurs when the ligaments in the wrist are stretched or torn. It can happen due to a sudden impact, a fall on an outstretched hand, or excessive force applied to the wrist joint.
Recognising the symptoms of a sprained wrist is crucial for timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Here are 5 common signs and symptoms to be aware of:
1. Pain and Tenderness
One of the primary indications of a sprained wrist is pain. You may experience a sharp or dull ache in the wrist area, which can vary in intensity depending on the severity of the sprain.
The pain may worsen with movement or when pressure is applied to the affected area. Tenderness and sensitivity to touch around the injured ligaments are also common.
2. Swelling and Bruising
A sprained wrist often leads to swelling, which occurs due to the body’s inflammatory response. The affected area may appear visibly swollen, and the swelling can extend to the surrounding tissues.
Additionally, bruising or discolouration may develop as a result of blood vessels being damaged during the injury. The bruising may appear as a black, blue, or purple discolouration on the skin.
3. Limited Range of Motion
Another symptom of a sprained wrist is a reduced range of motion. You may find it challenging to move your wrist normally, experiencing stiffness and difficulty performing simple tasks like grasping objects or rotating your wrist. The limited range of motion can be accompanied by a feeling of tightness or stiffness in the wrist joint.
4. Instability and Weakness
A sprained wrist can cause instability and a sense of weakness in the joint. Your wrist might feel less stable or secure than usual, or even just a little fragile. This instability can impact weight bearing on the wrist, and can affect your ability to perform activities that require strength and coordination like lifting objects or participating in sports.
5. Popping or Clicking Sensation
In some cases, a sprained wrist could be accompanied by a popping or clicking sensation during movement. This can occur due to ligament damage or the misalignment of wrist bones. If you experience these kinds of sensations, it’s important to consult with a a physiotherapist or healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.
How Long It Takes to Recover From Wrist Injuries
The recovery timeline for wrist injuries varies depending on the type and severity of the injury, individual factors, and adherence to the treatment plan.
While every individual’s recovery timeline may differ, it’s important to understand the general progression and factors that can influence the duration of recovery for wrist injuries. Here are some key considerations:
Type and Severity of Injury
The specific type of wrist injury and its severity will significantly impact the recovery timeline. Fractures, for example, typically require a period of immobilisation followed by rehabilitation. The healing time can range from several weeks to a few months, depending on the extent of the fracture and individual healing capacity.
Compliance with Treatment Plan
Adherence to the recommended treatment plan is crucial for optimal recovery. Following the advice and exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist, attending scheduled appointments, and avoiding activities that may aggravate the injury are essential for a timely recovery.
Consistency and dedication to the rehabilitation program can significantly influence the speed of recovery.
Each person’s healing capacity and response to treatment are unique. Factors such as age, overall health, previous injuries, and lifestyle habits can impact the recovery process. It’s important to listen to your body, communicate any concerns or setbacks with your physiotherapist, and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
Recovery from a wrist injury typically involves a phased approach. Initially, the focus is on pain relief, reducing swelling, and restoring mobility.
As healing progresses, the emphasis shifts to strengthening the wrist, improving range of motion, and gradually reintroducing functional activities. The duration of each phase may vary depending on the individual’s progress and response to treatment.
Professional Guidance and Support
Working with a qualified physiotherapist throughout the recovery process is essential. They can monitor your progress, make necessary modifications to the treatment plan, and provide guidance on activity modification and injury prevention strategies. Regular check-ins and ongoing support from your physiotherapist can help ensure a successful recovery.
Remember, patience and consistency are key during the recovery process. Rushing the healing process or pushing through pain can lead to setbacks and prolong recovery time. It’s important to communicate openly with your healthcare team, follow their guidance, and prioritise your wellbeing throughout the recovery journey.
Speak to a Coast Sport Physiotherapist
Wrist injuries are common but require proper diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation for optimal recovery.
By understanding the types of wrist injuries, seeking professional physiotherapy assistance, and committing to a comprehensive treatment plan, individuals can effectively manage their symptoms, promote healing, and regain full wrist function.
While the recovery timeline varies for each individual and injury, proactive engagement in the rehabilitation process and following the guidance of healthcare professionals can contribute to a faster and more successful recovery.
At Coast Sport, our accredited Physiotherapists can guide you through an effective and tailored rehab program. Book your consultation today.