Wrist Ligament Injuries
The eight carpal bones of the wrist also known as “carpus” are held together by ligaments. When there is an injury to the ligament, e.g. isolated sprain or dislocation, it may result in your wrist becoming unstable. Ligament injuries to the wrist may be partial or complete. Most complete injuries cause instability, pain upon gripping and loading of the wrist.
Wrist ligament injuries, also known as carpal ligament injuries, can lead to post-traumatic arthritis as the bones of the carpus are tightly tethered to each other.
The bones in our hands have complex geometry to allow them to remain in contact even when the hands are moving. However, this offers very little bone congruity and thus less stability of the joints, as compared to the hip. As such, ligaments are needed to secure these bone-to-bone connections. The ligaments of the carpus are categorised as “intrinsic” and “extrinsic”. Intrinsic ligaments connect carpal bones together, whereas extrinsic ligaments connect the carpal bone to either the radius or the ulna.
Injuries to the carpal ligaments will cause the bones to separate, disrupting normal contact points. This eventually leads to focal load bearing and breakdown of the articular cartilage. With time this may result in wrist arthritis.
Patients suffering from wrist ligament injuries may complain of swelling, bruising and in some cases numbness or tingling in the fingers and affected area. Other symptoms include:
- Dull pain that lasts for a long time
- Sharp pain when moving the wrist in certain directions
- Clicking or snapping sensation near the side of the affected wrist
- Stiffness with wrist movement
- Weakness with gripping or squeezing motions
It is advisable to seek medical treatment if you experience any of the symptoms above.
When you visit a hand specialist, they will conduct a physical examination by asking you to perform certain actions or placing pressure on the area of the wrist. They will also take a detailed medical history and order tests such as x-rays, MRI, ultrasound or a CT scan.
The treatment options are usually dependent on the type of wrist ligament injuries. Most hand specialists will start with conservative treatment such as occupational therapy, lifestyle modification, as well as, wrist brace. Other treatments include the prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications or steroid injections into the wrist to reduce inflammation. Surgery is only recommended in severe cases when conservative treatments are ineffective. You should speak to your hand surgeon to understand the treatment options available to you.
Every case is different, hence it is best to consult a hand surgeon to determine the treatment method that is most suitable for you. Reach out to us today if you are suffering from wrist instability and let us help you.