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What are the Different Types of Wrist Injury?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Wrist injury comes in many forms. It can be as simple as receiving a small cut, bite or burn on the wrist, or as complex as repetitive motion disorders that may result in chronic wrist pain. Understanding the injuries that can occur is useful in diagnosing sudden wrist pain. Clearly, correct diagnosis may lead to treatments or suggestions that can help heal or at least compensate for a wrist injury.

As mentioned, cuts, bites (animal or insect) or burns are common afflictions of the wrist. These need to be taken care of in the manner prescribed for each. A small cut or bite might need cleaning and a bandage for a few days. Burns that are open, blistered, or profuse require medical attention. Any wound that begins to get hot, exudes pus or has red streaks around is it potentially infected, and a doctor should be consulted to determine if treatment of oral or topical antibiotics is required.

Other common injuries of the wrist include fractures to bones at the wrist or sprains. Sprains are stretching or in severe cases, tearing of the ligaments in the wrist. Mild sprains might be swollen but could need no more than rest and ice for a few days. Some people feel better if they wear an ace bandage or a brace to keep the wrist immobilized. Any potential sprain that still involves swelling, that cannot be moved, or that involves extreme pain should be evaluated by a doctor. It’s not always possible to tell the difference between sprain and fracture without an x-ray.

Fractures to the wrist might involve different bones and are often caused when people fall on an outstretched hand. A fracture is essentially a broken bone, and almost always requires casting so that healing can begin. Kids are prone to wrist fractures, and older adults may be more likely to get them too, due to weakening bone strength. They are also common among those who participate in many types of sports. A physician's care is needed for a wrist injury that may be a fracture.

Another type of wrist injury that is increasingly common occurs because of repetitive motion. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most famous of these, and is typically caused by compression of the median nerve at point of the wrist. It may result in wrist pain, and numbness or pain in the thumb, index and middle finger, and possibly half of the ring finger. A condition quite similar to this is Guyon’s canal syndrome, where the ulnar nerve gets compressed in Guyon’s canal. Pain may occur in the wrist and numbness, prickling or pain could occur in the little finger and ring finger. Both of these conditions have numerous treatment options, including stopping the activity involved or finding more ergonomic ways to perform it. Using braces to stabilize the wrist, and potentially performing surgery if compression is significant are other options.

Repeated weight on or bumps to the wrists may cause a wrist injury called bursitis. This creates a situation where the fluid-filled pockets that surround the joints become inflamed and create pain. Modifying activities may help resolve this issue, but involving a doctor is useful for diagnosis. Joint problems, where the joints don’t maintain their stability or wear away after injury, may also affect wrist motion too, and this is often called arthritis. Wrist injury of this form is possible with the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis, too.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On May 31, 2014

Did you guys know that it's possible to get tendinitis in the wrist? I found out recently because I got diagnosed with it.

I type all day for my job and when my wrist started paining severely, I thought I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. But the doctor checked and said that it's inflammation of the tendons around my wrist. He prescribed a topical cream to use, and told me to wear a hand splint until the pain goes away.

By burcinc — On May 31, 2014

@turquoise-- I'm not a doctor but that sounds like a sprain. Is there swelling in addition to the pain? Have you applied ice?

Ice and rest will probably take care of the problem. Try to immobilize your wrist so that it can have the opportunity to recover. You can do that with some triangular gauze at home. If you have swelling, then you should apply an ice pack or cold pack, but put a thin towel in between the pack and your skin.

If these don't help or if the symptoms get worse, you might have tore something. You need to see a doctor immediately in that situation.

By turquoise — On May 30, 2014

I was working on a hobby project this weekend and somehow managed to bend my wrist in an odd way. It has been hurting since yesterday. Is it just a strain or could it be more serious? What should I do?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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