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Dr. Mark Hosko, MD, August 13 2021

Wrist Pain & Injuries: Causes & Treatment

How To Properly Care For & Recover From Wrist Injuries

If you are experiencing wrist pain, you may be wondering if you have a common wrist injury. Most of the tasks you do in a day involve the use of hands and wrists. Taking  a shower, getting dressed, having coffee, and texting all involve our hands. Our wrists play a huge part in our ability to use our hands comfortably. When our wrists hurt, our hands might hurt too. An injured wrist can limit the use of our hands as well as cause a lot of pain and discomfort. 

Some common types of wrist injuries are caused by trauma. Other types of wrist injuries are caused by less obvious problems. How do you know if an injury is serious and needs treatment? When should you see your doctor? How long will it take to get better? These are all great questions, and the answers are important to find out, especially if you are experiencing wrist pain. Keep reading to learn more about how to properly care for wrist pain.

How do I know if my wrist pain is serious?

Not all wrist injuries have the same causes or symptoms. Some are a result of trauma; the most common being a fall. Trauma can result in a bone fracture, which can be very serious, or a sprain, which is a wrist ligament injury. People often have wrist pain but no injury. These are usually due to conditions such as types of gout, cysts, arthritis or repetitive strain.

A wrist injury can be serious without a traumatic injury. If you have swelling that doesn’t go down after a couple days, your wrist injury might require medical attention. Pain that worsens during the day, at night, or doesn’t go away after a couple of days could be a sign of serious injury. 

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have a serious wrist injury:

WeaknessDifficulty grasping or picking things upRednessStiffnessPainLimited mobility

If your wrist pain does not improve after a couple of days, you should consider that it might be serious. While it may be tempting to self-treat, you should seek medical attention right away if you are experiencing wrist pain. A sprain can be mild or severe, requiring treatment. A broken bone in the wrist  is considered a serious injury.

How can I relieve wrist pain?

Methods to relieve your wrist injury can depend on what caused your wrist injury. A broken bone or sprain will likely require medical treatment and possibly physical therapy to heal and eliminate the pain. You may find pain relief from other wrist injuries by:

Wearing a splint or a braceTreating your wrist with ice packsResting your wrist for a few daysKeeping your wrist elevatedSeeing a physical therapist for a treatment plan that might include wrist injury exercisesTaking over the counter pain medicationSurgery might be necessary

If your pain is interfering with your daily activities or making you uncomfortable, you should see a medical provider. If you are in the Portland Area, Portland Urgent Care sees patients seven days a week. Our team of experts can help diagnose the cause of your wrist pain and put you on the path to healing. 

What can cause wrist pain without injury?

Lots of things can cause wrist pain without you sustaining a traumatic injury. In some cases, wrist pain can be a result of an injury you had in the past. For example, if you broke your wrist five years ago, you may still sometimes experience discomfort or pain. 

Arthritis is a common cause of joint pain. People with arthritis often have painful wrists. Gout is another problem that causes wrist pain but is not the result of an injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be very painful and may require surgery. People can get cysts in their wrists too, which can result in wrist pain. Some of the causes of wrist pain can be the result of underlying conditions. It’s important to discuss these things with your doctor so that other health issues can be addressed or ruled out.

What are the types of wrist injuries?

There are many types of wrist injuries. Your wrist is made up of tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves, and arteries. It’s complicated! With so many parts, it’s not surprising that any number of things can go wrong. Most common types of wrist injuries are due to trauma.  Trauma can cause a fracture in one or more bones. A traumatic event can cause a sprain which is a ligament injury or you might end up with a strain. A strain is the tearing of the muscle fibers. These injuries are typically caused by a fall, an accident or are sports related. 

Wrist injuries can be a result of health conditions too. These include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, bursitis, cysts and gout. Treatment options vary depending on the type of injury you have.

How do you know if a wrist injury is serious?

Let’s face it, sometimes things just hurt! At times, the cause of pain is minor and it will get better. Other times, pain is an indication of a serious problem which needs to be treated before things get worse. 

Obvious signs that a wrist injury is serious are if one or more of the following apply:

Your wrist is swollen and the swelling doesn’t go down after a day or twoStiffness, you lose your full range of motion, weakness in grasping objectsDeformity-if your wrist is out of alignment which could be due to a fracture or dislocationPain, redness, warm to the touch, fever-these are signs of inflammation

If you are experiencing wrist pain and are unsure if it is serious, it is best to have it checked out to prevent the problem from getting worse. If your doctor tells you it’s nothing serious, that's great news!

What is the most common type of wrist injury?

Fractures and sprains are the most common type of wrist injury. Given how much we use our hands and wrists, this is no surprise.  

Types of wrist injuries that are common but not a result of trauma can include:

Carpal tunnel syndromeArthritisGanglion cystsTendonitis and gout

There are other types of wrist injuries such as repetitive strain injury, bursitis, De Quervain's tenosynovitis, and more. Your doctor will diagnose your condition to ensure you get the proper treatment.

When should I see a doctor for wrist pain?

If you have a painful wrist and the pain doesn’t subside after a day or two, you should see your doctor. Painful symptoms such as swelling, stiffness, numbness, weakness, and pain when resting, are a good indication medical attention is needed. If you have tried ice packs, rest, over the counter pain medications without any relief; you should see your doctor. If you have had a traumatic event such as a fall, sports injury or accident you should make an appointment right away.

How can I tell if I broke my wrist or just sprained it?

Well, sometimes you can’t. This is why seeing a doctor after a traumatic event is so important. Different wrist injuries can have similar symptoms such as swelling, pain, and weakness, but may require different treatment. Minor fractures or fractures in less obvious places can be hard to diagnose. Two obvious signs of a break are if the bone is protruding through the skin or the wrist is deformed. A lot of fractures are not that severe, but you should still see a doctor. Proper care is really important to ensure a successful recovery.

What are the symptoms of a torn ligament in the wrist?

A torn ligament is a sprain. It can be a full or partial tear. If you hear a pop or the sound of tearing, you could have a sprain. The most obvious sign is pain - sprains can hurt! Most sprains will cause swelling. Sometimes you can have bruising or redness depending on how you injured it. Torn ligaments can cause weakness or instability.  If you are experiencing a torn ligament, you may find yourself unable to pick up things or maintain a grip. Your doctor can tell you if you sprained your wrist and provide information on how to recover from a wrist ligament injury.

How do you treat a wrist injury?

Treatments for wrist injuries may differ based on what the source of the problem is. Some breaks and sprains will need surgeries; others will need a splint or a cast. Some conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome may require surgery or physical therapy depending on the severity. Repetitive wrist strain injury treatment is usually achieved by physical therapy, applying ice packs or heat packs, and sometimes surgery. The best first step toward successfully treating wrist pain is to seek medical attention. If you are in the Portland Area you should contact Portland Urgent Care.

A doctor can diagnose the issue, assess the severity, and recommend the best treatment plan for you. You may be referred to a physical therapist for your wrist pain who will design a plan of care for you which will usually include wrist injury exercises. 

How long does it take for a wrist injury to heal?

Everyone wants to be pain-free and live a normal life. When you have wrist pain, this can interfere. During the healing process, you may need to practice a little patience and cooperation. If your doctor gives you specific advice, don’t ignore it!

The length of time it takes to heal can depend on the nature of the injury and the required treatment. Your health care professional will set reasonable expectations with you so that you understand the healing process for your particular injury. 

A break can take 6-8 weeks or much longer if surgery is required. A sprain can take 1-2 weeks but if you need surgery, recovery can take months. Carpal tunnel syndrome can take up to a year to recover from. Some wrist injuries will require ongoing care and the process could take many weeks or months. 

Why choose Portland Urgent Care?

If you have a wrist injury and are in the Portland area, Portland Urgent Care will help you recover. Portland Urgent Care is fully equipped with state of the art medical technology and a team of experts to treat wrist fractures, sprains, strains, and other injuries. Partnering with a team of  physical medicine specialists at Portland Wellness Care, you will have a full range of treatment options to recover from your injury. Portland Urgent Care accepts patients 7 days a week with or without appointments.

Conclusion

Wrist pain can really impact your quality of life. Fortunately, you don't have to suffer. There are many treatments available from things you can do at home to more involved medical treatment. It’s important to see a doctor if your pain does not subside within a day or two to determine what options would be best for you. Don’t let wrist pain interfere with living your best life!

Experiencing wrist pain? Contact Portland Urgent Care today!

Written by

Dr. Mark Hosko, MD

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