Upper Back Issues

Ligament Injuries of the Wrist

Causes
By far the most common way the wrist is injured is a fall on an outstretched hand. (The same type of force can happen in other ways, such as when you brace yourself on the dashboard before an automobile crash.) Whether the wrist is broken or ligaments are injured usually depends on many things, such as how strong your bones are, how the wrist is positioned during the injury, and how much force is involved.

Any kind of injury to the wrist joint can alter how the joint works. After a wrist injury, ligament damage may result in an unstable joint. Any time an injury changes the way the joint moves, even if the change is very subtle, the forces on the articular cartilage increase. It’s just like a machine; if the mechanism is out of balance, it wears out faster. Over many years, this imbalance in joint mechanics can damage the articular cartilage. Since articular cartilage cannot heal itself very well, the damage adds up. Finally, the joint can no longer compensate for the damage, and the wrist begins to hurt.

Symptoms
When an injury occurs, pain and swelling are the main symptoms. The wrist may become discolored and bruised. Doctors refer to this as ecchymosis. The wrist may remain painful for several weeks. There are no specific symptoms that allow your doctor to determine whether a wrist ligament injury has occurred.

Once the initial pain of the injury has subsided, the wrist may remain painful due to the instability of the ligaments. If the ligaments have been damaged and have not healed properly, the bones do not slide against one another correctly as the wrist is moved. This can result in pain and a clicking or snapping sensation as the wrist is used for gripping activities.

In the late stages, the abnormal motion may cause osteoarthritis of the wrist. This condition can cause pain with activity. During activity, the pain usually lessens, but when the activity stops, the pain and stiffness often increase. As the condition worsens, a person may feel pain even when resting. The ability to grip with the hand may be diminished. The pain may interfere with sleep.