Lt Col Jerman
Physical therapists deal with two main types of wrist injuries: traumatic and repetitive motion injuries. Captain Laydon, what can you tell us about these injuries?
Well, Dr. Jerman, traumatic injuries, such as fractures, are usually the result of a single traumatic event. A fracture is a break in a bone. The number and size of the small bones and joints in the hand and wrist make them more susceptible to breaks. Fractures of the radius or ulna in the forearm are the most common wrist fractures for people of all ages.
Another common traumatic wrist injury is a sprain. A sprain means the ligaments of the wrist are stretched beyond their normal limits. Wrist sprains are graded according to the severity of the injury, which can range from a stretched ligament to a complete tear.
Unlike traumatic injuries, repetitive motion injuries develop over time and are often the result of computer work, assembly line tasks, or other activities that require the repetitive use of the arms and hands.
One of the most common repetitive motion wrist injuries is called carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS. CTS is caused by the narrowing of the carpal tunnel, the already narrow channel running through your wrist. The carpal tunnel contains the median nerve, which transmits impulses from the brain to the hand. There are numerous causes for the narrowing of this tunnel, such as tendon swelling, chronic positioning of the wrists in flexion, compression, and others. All of these can result in an increased pressure placed on the median nerve. The result may be numbness, tingling, weakness, or a burning sensation in some of the fingers and areas of the hand, especially the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
Wrist tendinitis is another common wrist problem. Tendinitis can cause pain and swelling around the wrist due to inflammation. Tendinitis is often the result of overuse or repetitive motion, although it can also be caused by trauma to the wrist.
Classification of Wrist Sprains
A sprain means the ligaments of the wrist are stretched beyond their normal limits. Wrist sprains are graded according to the severity of the injury:
- Grade 1 sprains are considered a mild injury. Although the ligaments are stretched, no significant tearing has occurred.
- Grade 2 sprains are considered a moderate injury, where the ligaments may be partially torn.
- Grade 3 sprains are considered a severe wrist injury. In this case, the ligaments are completely torn, and there may be some instability of the joint.