Written by Dr. Michael Wigton, Hand & Wrist Specialist at Beacon Orthopaedics
Injuries and fractures of the wrist are very common among patients of all ages and activity levels. Wrist ailments come in all varieties, some can be obvious and seen and treated immediately such as a radius fracture while others are more subtle and may not be diagnosed right away such as injuries of the wrist ligaments.
Common Wrist Injuries
The most common wrist fracture seen by orthopedic hand surgeons is a distal radius fracture. Often these injuries happen when a patient lands on their outstretched hand to break a fall. These injuries can also result from higher-energy trauma such as car or motorcycle accidents or falling from higher heights. Distal radius fractures are more common in women and in the post-menopausal age group. When we see these injuries it is important to evaluate the hand, wrist, and arm in its entirety to make sure there are no other associated injuries. Hand and wrist specialists are able to evaluate and treat any issue that may arise from these injuries.
Another frequent fracture treated by orthopedic hand surgeons is a fracture of the scaphoid bone. The scaphoid is a small bone on the thumb side of the wrist, it is shaped somewhat like a peanut. (Or shaped like a boat as the origin of the word scaphoid comes from the Greek word Skafos, which means boat.) Scaphoid fractures are notoriously more difficult to treat. This injury is not always recognized initially, sometimes an MRI or a CT scan may be needed to diagnose the fracture. Regardless of the nature of the fracture, early treatment yields the best outcome.
Chronic Wrist Pain
Ligament and soft tissue injuries within and around the wrist are often a culprit of persistent pain. The scapho-lunate ligament (or SL ligament) is a ligament within the wrist joint that links the scaphoid bone and the lunate bone together. It is an important structure for maintaining wrist motion and stability. The triangular fibrocartilage complex or TFCC is a ligament and cartilage structure on the little finger side of the wrist. The TFCC provides stability to the wrist as the forearm rotates. Injuries to both the SL ligament or TFCC can occur from subtle acute injuries like a twisting force from a power tool, or from a higher energy fall, or as a result of chronic injury over many years. Often an MRI is recommended for evaluation and is helpful when deciding the best treatment option.
Treatment Options for Wrist Injuries and Chronic Pain
Many wrist injuries and fractures can be treated without surgery while many others require surgery to achieve the best result. When appropriate, treatment of wrist fractures is the perfect clinical situation to engage in a shared decision-making approach with your surgeon. Your surgeon will present options and discuss expectations for different treatments with the patient. This way, the patient and surgeon can decide on the best treatment to get back on the road to recovery as quickly and efficiently as possible. A shared decision-making approach results in higher satisfaction regardless of the treatment modality chosen because both the patient and the surgeon have ownership in the choices made.
Beacon is Here to Help
If you’re experiencing hand or wrist pain, we’d love to help you return to your normal activities. Dr. Michael Wigton, one of Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine’s talented hand & wrist specialists, is available to schedule appointments online or by phone 24/7. Schedule your appointment now to experience the Beacon difference.