A small slip or fall onto a stretched hand can lead to wrist injury. If you suffer an injury, it important to know whether you should use an ice pack or get an x-ray done, depending on the nature of the injury. It is often difficult to distinguish between a wrist sprain and fracture, as both injuries have similar symptoms, and adopting a wrong treatment regime can aggravate the problem. Although, a right medical assessment is necessary to differentiate a sprained wrist vs a broken wrist, looking at symptoms discussed in the blog post can give you an idea of the gravity of your injury and what you need to do. Read on.

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Understanding Wrist Sprain and Fracture

A wrist sprain is the result of ligaments in the wrist stretching too far and tearing partially or entirely. A wrist fracture occurs when one of the wrist bones breaks. Both injuries result from similar accidents and have almost the same symptoms, and a fractured wrist often involves sprained ligaments.

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Diagnosing a Sprained Wrist

Move the wrist to understand the severity of sprain. A mild sprain, referred to as ‘Grade 1’, has some ligament stretching, with no significant tearing. ‘Grade 2’ sprain has tearing of up to 50 percent of the fibers and may lead to loss of some functions. A severe sprain, ‘Grade 3’, has complete rupture of ligaments or more tearing. The wrist moves normally in Grade 1 and 2 sprains, but the instability and limited range of motion is seen in a Grade 3 sprain. While Grade 1 and 2 sprains can be treated at home, a Grade 3 sprain needs medical attention.

Diagnosing a Fractured Wrist

Larger and stronger bones are unlikely to break in most instances as a result of the injury. There is, however, a chance of stretching and tearing of the ligaments. This stretch and tear creates a crooked and misaligned appearance of bones, which indicates a fracture. Carpal bones in the wrist are small, so it might be difficult to notice a crooked or misaligned wrist, especially a hairline fracture. The radius (forearm bone attached to the small carpal bones) is a long bone, which usually gets broken. The scaphoid bone, is the most commonly fractured carpal bone and doesn’t cause noticeable wrist deformity in most cases.

How Does the Pain Differ?

If your wrist is fractured, you experience sharp pain when you move it and a deep and achy pain when stationary. If it is a wrist sprain, the severity of the pain may increase when you squeeze the hand or grip something. The stiffness, numbness, and difficulty in moving fingers is higher in wrist fractures than wrist sprains. You may hear a crunching or grinding sound while moving a fractured wrist, something that doesn’t occur with a sprained wrist. A Grade 3 sprain can, however, also produce similar sensations or sounds.

What to Do Next

You should stop moving the wrist immediately after the injury, elevate it, and apply cold packs. A fracture hurts for a long time and a sprain will stop hurting after a few days. If it’s a fracture of the scaphoid bone, the pain may be felt for a day or two, after which it stops hurting. There’s a possibility to misdiagnose a fracture as a wrist sprain. If a scaphoid bone fracture is left untreated, it could also lead to arthritis.

Last Few Words

Cold therapy and rest for a day or two makes a big difference in the healing of mild-to-moderate wrist sprains, but might be ineffective in wrist fractures. If, after a few days you don’t feel or notice any change or things get worse, it is time to visit a doctor. If you are unsure of the nature and gravity of injury from the outset, it is advisable to consult the specialists at the Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center. Fill out our Appointment Form to schedule a consultation with our orthopedic wrist specialists. To learn more about treatment plans for sprains and fractures, and other orthopedic services, call us at 1-888-608-4762.