7 of the Most Common Hand and Wrist Injuries

Common Injuries

Mar 24, 2022


Common wrist injuries are just that — extremely common. We use our hands every day for tasks including typing, driving, writing, lifting, cleaning … the list could go on forever. What happens when we don’t take proper care of our hands and wrists? We become more susceptible to wrist injuries. Whether you’re dealing with a muscle strain or a fracture, injuries to hands and wrists can range from minor to severe and all should be examined by a doctor.

Though common wrist injuries are not likely debilitating, they can make daily life difficult if not treated properly. The medical experts at Complete Care are here to share the most common wrist injuries that we see — and treat — on a regular basis.

1. Wrist sprains

What is the most common type of wrist injury? Wrist sprains tend to send a lot of patients to the emergency room for help. Wrist sprains are common wrist injuries from falling, that are most often the result of a high-impact fall onto an outstretched hand. There are three types of wrist sprains that vary by degree of injury to the ligaments:

  • Grade 1: The sprain only caused the ligaments to stretch — there’s pain, but you can still move your joint.
  • Grade 2: The ligaments are partially torn which causes a diminished function of the joint.
  • Grade 3: The ligament is completely torn or detached from the bone. When this occurs, you’ll likely need surgery to fix it. 

Symptoms of a sprained wrist may include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising or discoloration 
  • Warm feeling around the wrist
  • Popping or tearing feeling inside the wrist
  • Pain
  • Limited mobility

For minor sprains, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) are recommended. If you have severe pain, numbness, or are unable to move your wrist, seek medical attention immediately at an emergency room. 

2. Thumb sprains

Thumb sprains occur when the ligaments supporting it stretch beyond their limits or tear. Most sprains involve the ulnar collateral ligament located inside the thumb’s knuckle joint. Thumb sprains usually happen when a strong force bends the thumb away from the palm of the hand.

Symptoms of a thumb sprain include:

  • Pain or discomfort
  • Stiffness, swelling, and/or bruising at the base of your thumb 
  • Inability to move your thumb

Similar to a wrist sprain, treatment for a thumb sprain typically requires ice and compression by wearing a splint or cast to prevent the thumb from moving while the ligament heals. More severe sprains may require surgery to restore joint stability.

3. Wrist fractures

A fracture is another name for when a bone breaks. A wrist fracture can happen when any of the ten bones connected to the wrist break. A break in the radius is the most common cause of a wrist fracture. Breaks commonly occur following a hard fall onto an outstretched hand or after repetitive trauma to the bones.

Here is how to tell if you have a wrist fracture:

  • Difficulty moving the wrist
  • Swelling
  • Tingling feeling in the fingertips
  • Visible deformity

It’s important to seek medical help as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms. With 10 possible types of fractures, you will need a medical professional to properly identify and treat your injury. Treatment for minor fractures can be as simple as having the bones reset and wearing a cast, while more severe fractures can benefit from surgery to put the broken bones back together and hold them in the right position.

4. Hand fractures

Hand fractures are breaks in one or more of the bones in the hand, including the small bones of the fingers and the long bones within the palm. A fracture alludes to any loss of continuity of the bone, whether it’s a hairline crack or a fully shattered bone. Fractures in the hand can occur after a fall, something crushing your hand, twisting your hand in an uncomfortable position, or even through contact sports like football. 

Symptoms of a hand fracture include:

  • Swelling
  • Deformity
  • Tenderness or pain
  • Inability to move the fingers

In most cases, hand fractures will heal without surgical treatment but may require wearing a cast or splint for a short period. Similar to a wrist fracture, severe fractures typically require surgery to realign the broken bone fragments.

5. Dislocations of the PIP joint

Dislocations of the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint are one of the most common wrist injuries we see. The PIP joint is located above the knuckle and typically sustains injury when the finger is either hyperextended or forced downward into a bent position. People suffer this injury so often while playing sports that it has come to be known as “coach’s finger.” Disfiguration and loss of joint function are clear signs that you have dislocated the PIP joint in your hand.

Though dislocated fingers are typically a minor injury, seek medical attention immediately if there is any numbness or discoloration of the skin. Luckily, PIP joint dislocations rarely require surgery as they can be treated with an immobilizing splint or by taping the injured finger to an adjacent one.

6. Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome, though a common condition, is not as easily identifiable as a sprain or a fracture. Why? Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when major nerves in the hand are squeezed or compressed as a result of repetitive use of the hand and wrist. This inflammation of the tendons then travels through the wrist and sometimes up the arm causing pain, tingling, and numbness in those areas.

What are the five symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

  1. Shock-like sensations in the fingers
  2. Pain and tingling in the wrist and/or up the arm
  3. Weakness in the hands that result in dropping things 
  4. Stiff fingers
  5. The inability to make a fist

A similar condition to carpal tunnel syndrome is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, but this condition tends to affect the tendons in the thumb. For both conditions, treatment options are designed to reduce inflammation, prevent reoccurrence, and preserve movement in the hand, wrist, and fingers. For minor cases, medication and physical therapy are common methods of treatment, though surgery may be necessary in severe cases. 

Because carpal tunnel syndrome is known to worsen over time, an early diagnosis is key. If you believe you may be struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome, seek medical attention as soon as possible to learn about your treatment options.

7. Mallet finger

“Mallet finger” is a term that refers to the deformity of the tip of the finger that was forcibly bent by an injury. For example, when a ball or other object strikes the tip of the finger, the tendon that straightens the finger can tear. This condition is sometimes referred to as “baseball finger.”

Signs of mallet finger include:

  • Inability to straighten the fingertip on your own
  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Blood is collecting underneath the nail
  • The nail has become detached from the finger

If not treated promptly, a mallet finger may not return to its normal form and function, so those experiencing symptoms should seek a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor may order an x-ray to examine the damage and will recommend wearing a splint. Most mallet finger injuries can be treated without surgery.

How do you know if a wrist injury is serious?

Now that we have covered some of the most common wrist injuries, it’s apparent that some may be more severe than others. However, pain, swelling, deformity, the inability to move your hand or fingers along with other symptoms should be a key indicator that you need medical help. Even if it doesn’t seem painful at the beginning, some sprains and fractures can worsen over time. 

How do I know what type of wrist injury I have? The angle at which the wrist hits the ground may determine the type of injury. If you are having trouble deciphering for yourself, you need a medical professional to properly diagnose and treat the injury. 

We treat common wrist injuries at Complete Care 

Having a common wrist injury can turn daily life into a painful ordeal. Our hands are some of our most important tools, and accidents happen, so seek medical attention for your wrist injury as soon as you can, to ensure a more manageable recovery.

Complete Care has many freestanding emergency rooms all over the state of Texas and in Colorado Springs. Our medical professionals can administer an emergency x-ray to better examine your injury and create a personalized treatment plan. We are here to ensure that you can get in, get out, and get back to life. 

No matter what injury you are facing, your nearest Complete Care location is here for you 24/7. We will take complete care of you.

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