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Common Injuries of the Wrist

Considered one of the most complex joints in the human body, the wrist contains eight small carpal bones that connect the bones of the forearm (ulna and radius) with the bones of the hand (metacarpals). Each of these bones forms a joint with the bone next to it, with articular cartilage for shock absorption and intricate structure of ligaments and tendons for stability and range of motion. Adding to the complexity, are important nerves and blood vessels that pass through the wrist to the hand.

The most common injury to the wrist is impact or force applied to an outstretched hand; for example, breaking a fall by landing on an outstretched hand or by using an outstretched hand to brace the body in a collision. Whether bones have been broken or not, instability to the ligaments must be corrected in order avoid unusual wear and tear on the articular cartilage that may result from imbalance.

X-rays are a good starting point for diagnosis; however, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) provides better detail of soft tissue damage such as a torn ligament. In some cases, it may be necessary to use an arthroscope to see which ligaments may be torn and at the same time repair the ligaments.

In the case of a simple wrist sprain where the ligament is only partially injured (rather than completely torn), nonsurgical treatment may require a splint of cast for three to six weeks to allow the ligament to heal. Surgery is more likely to be indicated in complete tears and older injuries.

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