Our specialists treat a variety of wrist conditions, including wrist and forearm fractures, ganglion cysts, wrist sprain and ligament damage, and arthritis.
Wrist and Forearm Fractures
A fracture is a break or a crack in a bone. Wrist and forearm fractures may involve the forearm bones or a bone at the base of the hand.
Fractured wrists are very painful, swollen, stiff, and tender to the touch. If nerve damage results, you may experience numbness and limited ability to use your fingers, hand, and wrist.
Wrist fractures usually result from falls on the hands. In the winter, many slips on the ice result in wrist and forearm fractures when people use their hands to break the fall. There are two kinds of wrist fractures:
- Colles fracture, when the palm of the hand hits the ground
- Smith fracture, when the hand bends the other way and the back of the wrist hits the ground
Depending on the severity of the fracture, treatment may include a splint, cast, or surgery. The goal is to realign the bones so they heal properly and return to full function. As with many other types of wrist injuries, you may be referred to physical therapy to rebuild strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
A ganglion cyst is a non-cancerous fluid-filled lump on the wrist or hand. Ganglion cysts are very common, and many people get them at some point in their lives. They most often occur on the back or palm side of the wrist and the base of a finger.
Ganglia are firm, smooth cysts filled with clear, jelly-like fluid. They are either round or oval. Most of the time Ganglion cysts are painless. However, if the cyst presses on a nerve it can cause pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling.
Ganglion cysts are a bit of mystery. Doctors are unsure why the cysts form. They are possibly related to prior injuries or conditions like arthritis.
Most of the time, ganglion cysts do not require treatment and go away on their own. However, if a cyst becomes unsightly or painful, treatment may be needed.
A ganglion cyst can be treated by massaging the cyst fluid back into the surrounding tissue or by draining the cyst fluid with a needle.
If the cyst returns after treatment, your doctor may recommend surgical removal. The surgeon cuts out the cyst as well as a section of tissue around the cyst. This is to prevent another cyst from forming. Recovery is relatively quick and you can return home after a few hours.
Wrist Sprain/Ligament Damage
Wrist sprains are common injuries. They can range from mild to severe, depending on how badly the ligaments are damaged. Mild sprains occur when the ligaments are stretched but not torn. Severe sprains occur when the ligament is completely torn or is pulled off the bone.
When fibers in the ligaments stretch beyond their limits or tear, they often are painful. Symptoms include swelling, bruising, and tenderness. You may also feel a popping sensation inside the wrist or warmth around the wrist.
Sprains can result when the wrist is bent or twisted forcefully. An example would be when the hands are used to break a fall to the ground. The injury might occur during sports, outdoor recreation, or everyday activities.
Your doctor will recommend treatment based on the severity of the sprain. Simple at-home remedies, such as the RICE method, can help mild sprains. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
If the pain and swelling have not improved after 24 hours, you should see your doctor. At this point there are non-surgical options, such as a splint and some prescribed stretching exercises. For more severe sprains, your doctor may recommend surgery to reconnect or reconstruct the torn ligament.
Several types of arthritis can affect the wrist. The most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and posttraumatic arthritis. Wrist arthritis creates pain and stiffness that can make simple activities of daily living difficult.
Arthritis symptoms vary from person to person. For some, the symptoms come and go. Others may not experience any symptoms. The most common symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and joint weakness.
Different types of arthritis have different causes. Osteoarthritis can develop from normal “wear and tear” in the wrist. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that damages normal tissue. Posttraumatic arthritis can develop after an injury, possibly even several years afterward.
While there is no cure for arthritis, there are many treatment options that can help relieve symptoms and maybe even slow the progression of damage.
Nonsurgical treatments include:
- Modifying activities that aggravate the pain
- Temporarily immobilizing the wrist with a splint to ease stress on the joint and support the wrist
- Oral and topical anti-inflammatory medications
- Special exercises to improve range of motion
- Cortisone (steroid) injections into the joint to provide temporary relief
- Additional medications or therapies as recommended by your doctor, if the above treatments are not effective.
If nonsurgical treatments don’t help to improve your quality of life, your doctor may talk to you about surgery. The goal of surgery is to relieve pain and improve or maintain hand function.