The Common Hand & Wrist Injuries Due To A Fall & How To Treat Them
It is humans’ natural instinct to break a fall with our hands, but this sometimes results in hand and wrist injuries – ranging from fractures to sprains and strains – that may require immediate medical attention.
Thus, it is important to understand the common hand and wrist injuries due to falling on outstretched hands so you can seek the appropriate treatments as early as possible.
1. Distal radius fractures
The radius is the larger of the two bones of the forearm, with the end toward the wrist known as the distal end and is one of the most commonly broken bones in the arm. The distal radius can break in a few ways and are categorised according to the different types of fractures:
- Open fracture – when the bone breaks through the skin
- Comminuted fracture – when the bone breaks into more than two pieces
- Intra-articular fracture – when the bone breaks into your wrist joint
- Extra-articular fracture – refers to fractures that do not affect the joint surface
You may experience pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling or deformity in the wrist.
2. Scaphoid fractures
A scaphoid fracture is another common wrist injury and occurs when there is a break in one of the eight small carpal bones in the thumb side of the wrist which is responsible for motion and stability. The fracture is classified according to the severity of the displacement:
- Non-displaced fracture – bone fragments line up correctly
- Displaced fracture – bone fragments have moved out of their normal position, resulting in gaps or overlaps
You may experience pain when moving your thumb or wrist and swelling.
3. Wrist ligament injuries
Wrist ligament injuries, also known as carpal ligament injuries, may occur as a result of a sprain or dislocation and can lead to post-traumatic arthritis as the bones are tightly tethered to each other. Injuries to the ligament can cause the bones to separate, disrupting normal contact points which eventually leads to focal load-bearing and breakdown of the articular cartilage. You may experience pain, swelling, bruising, numbness or tingling.
You may also injure the scapholunate ligament, which is located in the middle of the wrist between the scaphoid and lunate bones. This usually happens when too much stress is put on the wrist, such as from a fall – which results in an unstable and painful wrist.
A Triangular FibroCartilage Complex (TFCC) tear could also occur. The TFCC is made of tough fibrous tissue and cartilage to support the joints between the end of the forearm bones for stability. When injured, it may not always cause pain or instability in the wrist, but other symptoms such as a clicking or popping sound, weakness and limited range of motion.
4. Hand fractures
A hand fracture occurs when there is a break in one of the bones of the fingers, typically caused by using your hands to prop yourself up during a fall. Although most hand fractures do not require surgical treatment, it also largely depends on the type and location of the fracture.
You may experience pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling or difficulty moving your fingers.
First-aid for hand and wrist injuries
Oftentimes, these hand and wrist injuries happen when you are at home, exercising or playing sports and medical attention may not be as readily available. To relieve some of the symptoms and prevent your injury from worsening, you may wish to perform some simple first-aid.
Start off by applying an ice pack to reduce swelling, then getting the help of someone to immobilise the injured area and stop any bleeding. Most importantly, try not to use your injured hand or wrist.
Seeking medical attention
It is advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if you require treatment for a hand fracture or wrist fracture as the types of treatment methods differ according to the type of fracture sustained.
Most hand and wrist injuries can be treated using non-surgical methods such as wearing a cast or brace and taking medications. However, if conservative treatments prove to be ineffective, then your doctor may recommend hand or wrist surgery to put the bones together or reconnect ligaments.
Reach out to our hand specialist, Dr Jacqueline, at Advanced Hand Centre if you have any queries regarding hand and wrist injuries.