Understanding the wristThe wrist is a complex body part made up of several bones, joints, and soft tissues.
Wrist bonesForearm bones, carpal bones and hand bones comprise the bones in and around the wrist. The radius and ulna are the two long bones that run from the elbow to the wrist, although the latter does not form a joint with the wrist bones. Carpal bones are two rows of small bones where the radius meets the wrist. The row closest to the forearm is called the proximal carpals while the row nearest to the fingers are referred to as distal carpals. Distal carpals form five joints with the hand bones, which connect to the fingers and thumb.
Wrist jointsThere are several sets of joints in and around the wrist responsible for various wrist and hand motions.
- The distal radioulnar joint allows for forearm rotation.
- The radiocarpal joint is referred to as the main joint of the wrist and is responsible for several motions.
- The midcarpal joint allows up and down and side to side movements.
- The five carpometacarpal joints between the distal carpals and metacarpals (hand bones).
Wrist tendons and ligamentsSeveral ligaments that connect the wrist bones to each other and the long bones of the forearm and the hand are present. So are tendons, which connect wrist bones to several muscles, making various wrist and finger flexion and extension movements, possible. Blood and sensations in your wrist and hand are supplied by blood vessels and nerves.
The most common wrist injuries and disorders
1. Wrist sprainsAny trauma or overuse may cause stretching or tears in your wrist, causing wrist sprain. Most often, wrist sprains are caused by a fall on an outstretched hand. This type of injury is quite common there’s even an acronym for it: FOOSH. When you stretch your hand on a fall, you’ll likely land on your palm and bend your wrist backwards, causing you to stretch or possibly tear your wrist ligaments, no thanks to FOOSH.
2. Wrist fracturesA forceful impact from sports injuries and motor vehicle collisions often cause the radius bone to break at the radiocarpal joint, and this is known as distal radius fracture. In some cases, FOOSH can cause a wrist fracture, affecting the scaphoid bone, one of the carpal bones on the thumb side of the wrist located above the radius. Referred to as a scaphoid fracture, it is less common but takes more time to heal compared to distal radius fractures. The type and severity of an injury depends on the wrist’s angle when the person hits the ground. Scaphoid bone will likely break when the wrist is bent back.
Is it a sprained or broken wrist?
Because scaphoid fractures do not cause bones to break outside of the skin, some individuals with fractured scaphoid bones may suspect having a sprained wrist instead. With no obvious signs of a broken bone, it can be confusing to know if you have a broken or sprained wrist. Wrist sprains and fractures may have symptoms that are common to each other, such as pain, swelling, bruising and limited range of motion. Quite surprisingly, wrist fracture may only generate mild pain while wrist sprain may cause severe pain. Experts stress the importance of getting an X-ray to diagnose or rule out wrist fracture.
3. Wrist tendonitisWrist tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons in the wrist caused by repetitive motions or overuse. One such common condition is the extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon that runs along the back of the wrist. Incessant twisting and backward flexion (bending the wrist down) are the main triggers for this type of tendon injury. Specific medical conditions (for instance, lupus) can cause tendon inflammation, too. Wrist pain, weakness in the affected hand and skin that feels warm to the touch are the common symptoms of this type of wrist problem.
4. Carpal tunnel syndrome
The median nerve located on the inside of your arm is in charge of your finger movements and sensations. This nerve passes through the carpal tunnel—a passageway in the wrists—and ends in your hand. When this nerve gets compressed, it causes pain, numbness and tingling in your wrist, arm and hands, the telltale signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpenters, drivers, workers in the assembly line, typists and other individuals whose work involves repetitive hand, finger and wrist movements are prone to having carpal tunnel syndrome.
5. Wrist arthritisOsteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and posttraumatic arthritis can all attack the cartilage in your wrist joints. When your cartilage wears out or becomes damaged, your bones tend to rub against each other, causing symptoms such as joint swelling, stiffness and limited range of motion.
7 unusual ways to make your wrist heal fasterSerious wrist fractures require immediate medical attention, but soft tissue injuries may be treated with the usual RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method. To recover faster from wrist pain and swelling, you can include these not so usual strategies, too:
1. Wear glovesYou may have been wondering how gloves can heal your wrist. Those suffering from soft tissue wrist injuries will tell you that pain and swelling can also occur in the hands, thus there is the need for a targeted hand and wrist cooling and warming compression device. This glove-shaped hand ice pack can be used warm or cold to provide cold and warm compression when you need it, where you need it. It fits your hand and wrist snugly to provide immediate relief from pain and swelling, joint inflammation, chemotherapy neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, eczema and a host of other hand and wrist conditions.
2. Use a splintSplints are protective devices that keep an injured body part immobile. A static splint, for instance, is worn to properly align bones, ligaments and tendons during the recovery process. They’re perfect for hand and wrist fractures and other types of ligament injuries.
3. Switch to a high-protein diet
When recovering from an injury, consider taking more protein-rich foods to help build new tissues and heal from torn tissues and open wounds faster. To boost recovery, avoid foods that worsen inflammation such as sugary drinks, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, processed meat and alcohol. Focus on green, leafy and bright-colored vegetables and fruits such as bananas and apples instead.
4. Fulfill your basic kneadNothing beats a good old therapeutic massage to make you feel good, but did you know it can be integrated in your injury recovery process? A post-injury massage can be beneficial to a range of injuries, including sprains, strains and muscle tears. Kneading, gliding, skin rolling and other massage techniques promote blood circulation, delivering much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the injured tissues, helping speed up the healing process. They can likewise help disintegrate lactic acid build up, which, when left alone, increases inflammation and muscle soreness.
5. Stay hydratedIt’s true what they say: water is life. Dehydration can apparently worsen inflammation. Muscles become tense when you’re not adequately hydrated, which may make it easier to (re-)injure yourself. Drinking water improves blood circulation and helps accelerate recovery from your wrist injury. Herbal teas, which are packed with anti-inflammatory properties, can also help with the rehabilitation process.
6. Get enough sleep
Sleeping your way to injury recovery delivers much needed blood flow and facilitates oxygen and nutrients critical in cell regeneration and muscle repair. Sufficient quality sleep also encourages your pituitary gland to release growth hormones that boost this function. The pituitary gland is likewise responsible for producing prolactin, which aids in inflammation regulation. Simply put, sleep deprivation can worsen inflammation, stunt the recovery process and make it easier for you to re-injure yourself.