Summer Fun in RecoveryA broken wrist is a common injury during sports or everyday accidents. This type of injury can significantly impact a person's ability to perform simple tasks, including finger movement. It is important to recognize the symptoms of a broken wrist and seek prompt medical attention and treatment to avoid potential long-term complications. These common injuries can significantly affect daily activities and overall quality of life.

One person who has devoted his career to this field is Dr. Mark Yaffe, a leading hand and wrist surgery specialist in the Greater Chicago area. With his extensive experience and commitment to innovative surgical techniques, Dr. Yaffe has provided relief and recovery to hundreds of patients.
Read on to learn more about wrist injuries, their symptoms, and the various treatment options, all under the expert guidance of Dr. Yaffe.

What’s the Difference Between a Broken Wrist and a Sprained Wrist?

A broken wrist and a sprained wrist are two different types of wrist injuries that affect different parts of the wrist. A broken wrist, also known as a wrist fracture, occurs when one or more of the wrist bones are broken or cracked. Broken wrist symptoms may include severe pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising. On the other hand, a sprained wrist is an injury to the ligaments, which are the strong bands of connective tissue that hold the wrist bones together.

Sprains are classified into three grades based on their severity. A mild wrist sprain (Grade 1) involves stretching the ligament without significant tearing. A moderate sprain (Grade 2) involves substantial tearing, affecting up to 50% of the fibers, which may result in some loss of function. A severe sprain (Grade 3) indicates extensive tearing or even complete rupture of the ligaments.

Regardless of whether it's a sprain or a fracture, any injured wrist should receive immediate medical attention to ensure appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Wrist

  1. Severe Pain:One of the most immediate and noticeable symptoms of a broken wrist is severe pain. This pain often intensifies when you try to move your wrist, grip an object, or twist your arm. A broken wrist can involve different types of fractures, such as a distal radius fracture, where the bone breaks near the wrist joint, or a comminuted fracture, where the bone shatters into multiple pieces. The pain you feel signals from your body that something is wrong and needs medical attention.
  2. Swelling: Following a wrist injury, you might notice swelling around your wrist joint. This is your body's natural response to trauma. It sends more blood and fluid to the area to support the healing process. Swelling can also occur if soft tissues around the area are damaged. While some swelling after an injury is normal, excessive swelling may indicate a more severe injury like a broken bone and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  3. Tenderness: Tenderness is another common symptom of a broken wrist. If your wrist is broken, it may feel sore and sensitive to touch. This tenderness can extend to the surrounding area as well, including your hand and forearm. The degree of tenderness often corresponds to the severity of the injury. For example, an open fracture, where the bone breaks through the skin, will likely cause extreme tenderness.
  4. Bruising: Bruising is a sign that blood vessels under your skin have been damaged. After a wrist fracture, you might see bruises appear around your wrist and possibly extend up your arm. Bruising occurs as blood leaks out of the broken vessels and under the skin. Like swelling and tenderness, bruising can indicate damage to the soft tissues around your wrist as well as a potential bone break.
  5. Obvious Deformity: An obvious deformity, such as a bent or twisted wrist, is a clear sign of a severe injury, possibly a broken wrist. Deformities happen when the force of an impact causes your bone to break and move out of place. This is common in contact sports and other activities that involve a high risk of falls or collisions. If you notice any deformity in your wrist after an injury, it's crucial to seek immediate medical help to prevent any long-term complications.
  6. Difficulty Moving or Using the Hand or Wrist: Having difficulty moving or using your hand or wrist is a telltale sign of a broken wrist. This symptom typically arises when a type of fracture affects the carpal bones - eight small bones that make up the wrist and allow for its wide range of motion. When these bones are fractured, it can significantly impede wrist function, making even simple tasks like grasping an object or turning your hand difficult. In some severe injuries, this loss of mobility can lead to permanent stiffness if not properly treated.
  7. Numbness or Tingling: Numbness or tingling in the fingers or hand is another possible symptom of a broken wrist. These sensations can occur when the fracture impacts the nerves that run through your wrist and into your hand. The resulting damage to these nerves can interfere with their ability to transmit sensory information, leading to feelings of numbness, 'pins and needles,' or even a complete loss of sensation in some cases. If you experience numbness or tingling following a wrist injury, it's crucial to seek medical attention promptly, as this could indicate a more severe injury.
  8. Pain When Gripping or Squeezing: Experiencing pain when gripping or squeezing an object is another common sign of a broken wrist. This symptom often occurs when the fracture happens in a part of the wrist that's involved in these actions, such as the carpal bones or the lower end of the radius or ulna (the two long bones in the forearm). The misalignment and instability caused by the fracture can make it painful to apply pressure or grip objects, significantly impacting daily activities.
    If you suspect a broken wrist, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. Treatment usually involves immobilizing the wrist with a cast or splint to promote proper bone healing. Surgery may be required for complex fractures. Treating your wrist early increases the likelihood of fully recovering wrist function and prevents long-term complications.

Medical Treatments for Broken Wrists and Fractures

When treating broken wrists and fractures, Dr. Mark Yaffe utilizes advanced surgical techniques and non-invasive treatments to ensure the best possible patient outcomes. The primary goal in treating these conditions is to restore functionality and alleviate pain.

Here are some of the treatment options that Dr. Yaffe offers:

  • Mini Carpal Tunnel Release: This minimally invasive procedure is performed using local anesthesia, which can reduce the recovery time and lower the overall procedure costs. It is used primarily to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes numbness and tingling in the hand due to pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.
  • Trigger Finger Release: Trigger finger is a condition that causes the fingers or thumb to lock in a bent position. Dr. Yaffe treats this condition with a minimally invasive release procedure, also performed with local anesthesia.
  • CMC Arthroplasty: This single-incision technique treats the base of thumb arthritis. It does not require cutting or harvesting tendons, leading to quicker recovery and less postoperative pain.
  • Minimally-Invasive Surgery: Dr. Yaffe uses minimally invasive surgical techniques to treat hand and wrist injuries. These procedures aim to reduce recovery time and minimize the risk of complications.
  • Joint Replacement: In cases where damage to the cartilage, bone, ligaments, or tendons in the hand or wrist joint is severe, Dr. Yaffe may recommend joint replacement. This procedure can restore function and relieve the symptoms of degenerative conditions.

Regardless of the treatment method, seeking immediate medical attention following a suspected wrist fracture is paramount to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

How Broken Wrists Are Diagnosed

Diagnosing a broken wrist typically begins with a physical examination and understanding of the patient's symptoms. If you're experiencing severe pain, swelling, tenderness, or an inability to move your wrist, it's crucial to see a doctor as soon as possible. During the physical examination, the doctor will assess the wrist's range of motion sensitivity and look for any visible deformities.

To confirm the presence of wrist fractures, imaging tests like X-rays are usually conducted as they can clearly show if a bone has broken or cracked. In some cases, further imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI may be required for a more detailed view.
Seeking immediate medical attention is essential for a correct diagnosis and promptly initiating appropriate treatment.

Experience Expert Orthopedic Hand Surgery in Chicago

Accurate wrist fracture detection is crucial for recovery. Symptoms such as intense pain, swelling, or limited movement may indicate a fracture or other injuries like sprains. Seek prompt medical evaluation if you suspect a break. Early intervention reduces long-term complications, expedites recovery, and gets you back to your routine. Your health matters - address potential injuries promptly and effectively.

The expertise and innovative surgical techniques of Dr. Mark Yaffe have not only provided valuable insights into the treatment of these common injuries but also offered a beacon of hope for those affected. His dedication to improving patient care and advancing medical knowledge in this field exemplifies the significant impact that experts such as Dr. Yaffe can have.

Don't let wrist pain limit your lifestyle. Consult with Dr. Mark Yaffe, a renowned orthopedic hand surgeon in Chicago. Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly impact your healing process and overall well-being. Schedule your appointment now. Your health is our priority.