Wrist injuries which occur suddenly are known acute wrist injuries. They are usually caused from a fall onto an outstretched arm or a forced twisting movement, and include wrist strains, sprains, and fractures. Gradual onset injuries or chronic wrist pain occurs over a period of time, and often cannot be traced back to a single incident or cause. These include wrist tenonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and bursitis. An acute wrist injury may become chronic over time if it is not treated correctly.
On this page:
- Acute wrist injuries
- Chronic wrist pain
- Hand & finger injuries
- Strapping & taping for wrist and hand injuries
Sudden onset injuries or acute injuries include wrist fractures, sprains, strains, and contusions. Here we explain the treatment and rehabilitation of acute wrist injuries. If a broken bone (fracture) is suspected, then always seek medical advice immediately.
A broken wrist (or fractured wrist) is a fracture or break in the wrist end of either the radius and ulna forearm bones or any of the small carpal bones in the wrist. There are a number of different types of wrist fracture so an accurate diagnosis is essential to get the most effective treatment. If a fracture is suspected then seek medical attention immediately.
A Colles fracture is a particular type of broken wrist which involves a break of the radius or forearm bone on the thumb side of the wrist. Deformity, severe pain and swelling would indicate this type of fracture, which is most often caused by a fall. Medical help is needed immediately to repair this wrist injury.
The scaphoid is one of the small group of bones in the wrist called the carpal bones. It is the most common carpal bone to fracture among athletes and is often caused by falling onto an outstretched hand. Wrist pain and trouble gripping things are symptoms of this type of fracture, and medical advice should be sought for treatment.
A wrist strain is a general term used to describe pain in the wrist. The pain may be due to a sudden force causing an acute wrist injury, or due to overuse, causing a repetitive strain injury. The area can feel tender, especially when moving it. Because of this, complete rest is the best treatment for recovering from a strain.
A sprained wrist is an injury to any of the ligaments which connect bone to bone in the wrist, of which there are many. It is a common wrist injury usually caused by a significant impact like a fall. There are different grades of a sprain, depending on their severity, but they can all cause significant pain. Read more about these grades and how the sprain can be treated.
A TFCC tear is an injury to the triangular fibrocartilage complex, found in the wrist, between the end of the ulna bone and the carpals. A tear can be caused by a specific incident or come on gradually, resulting in wrist pain and restricted wrist and hand function. This wrist injury can often be treated with a splint, although if it is too severe, surgery may be needed.
Gradual onset injuries or chronic injuries occur over a period of time and often cannot be traced back to a single incident or cause. The most common structure injured are the tendons of the wrist through overuse or repetitive strain.
Wrist tendonitis or wrist tendinopathy is inflammation, or more likely degeneration, of any of the flexor or extensor tendons which cross the wrist joint. Repetitive movement and overuse can cause stiffness and pain in the wrist, and there can also be swelling. Sports and repetitive work are common causes of tendonitis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of wrist pain. A dull ache is felt in the wrist and forearm with pain which may radiate into the hand and fingers. It is often worse at night and a tingling sensation can be felt. We explain the symptoms, causes, and treatment including exercises and surgery.
RSI or repetitive strain injury is a general term rather than a specific diagnosis used to describe gradual onset pain usually in the forearm, wrist and hand. RSI is a term that covers several different causes of wrist pain, but all are exacerbated by certain repetitive movements, whether they're from sport or from work. We look in more detail at the causes and treatments of this wrist injury.
A ganglion cyst or wrist ganglion is a small lump which appears in the wrist, often attached to a ligament. The size of the cyst and the severity of the wrist pain varies from person to person. Some ganglions are not painful so can be left, but others can hinder movement and cause pain, so may require treatment. Read more about the causes, symptoms and possible treatments for ganglions.
A bursa is a small sack of fluid that lubricates where tendons move in joints, of which there are two in the wrist. If a bursa is subjected to repeated trauma or friction then it can become inflamed and swollen, causing wrist pain. Although the pain can be severe, wrist bursitis can often go away with rest, ice and compression, without the need for any major treatment.
De Quervain's Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the synovium or sheath that surrounds two tendons in the wrist which attach to the base of the thumb. It is a form of repetitive strain injury which can be exacerbated by sporting and work activities. The inflammation can cause pain and restrict movement in the wrist, but in most cases it can be treated without surgery.
Injuries to the hand and fingers are common in sports and must be taken seriously. Injuries in this area can be very debilitating and if treated incorrectly they can have long-term consequences.
A sprained finger occurs when the finger is bent in some way causing damage to the ligaments which connect bones together. It is a common injury in ball games such as American football, basketball, cricket and handball. A sprain can be helped by rest, ice and compression and also a taping method, details of which can be seen below.
Trigger Finger is a form of tenosynovitis which results in the finger becoming bent in towards the palm of the hand. This can also occur in the thumb known as trigger thumb. There is no specific cause but a variety of factors are detailed below which can make the condition more likely, including gaming and texting! The treatment depends on the severity of the condition and can range from resting to surgery.
A thumb sprain occurs when the thumb is bent out of its normal range of movement, usually backward. It can happen in sports like skiing, rugby and basketball and causes pain and swelling. The ligaments supporting the joint at the bottom of the thumb get damaged, and this can be helped by taping, icing and compression.
A broken thumb is a fracture of either of the two small bones called phalanges which make up the thumb. A broken thumb is not as common as a broken finger but is just as painful! Icing the thumb and avoiding moving it can help ease the pain until a doctor examines it for any possible complications.
The metacarpal bones are the five long bones in the hand. Any of these bones can be broken or fractured but the 1st metacarpal under the base of the thumb is the most commonly injured. The fracture is usually caused by a direct impact which causes pain in the area. Treatment for these kinds of fractures usually involves immobilisation in a cast followed by strengthening exercises.
A broken finger is a break or fracture in any one of the 3 small phalange bones which make up each finger.
How to tape the wrist for wrist sprains and strains. Sports Physiotherapist Neal Reynolds explains the principles behind and demonstrates how to support the wrist with simple wrist strapping techniques.