How an ER Treats Wrist Injuries
Wrist injuries fall into two categories: trauma, and overuse. Both types of injuries are common and vary in severity. Here’s how you can know if your wrist injury is one that needs emergency care, or if it is an injury that can wait for urgent care or an appointment with your primary care physician.
Wrist Injuries: Trauma
The most common traumatic cause is falling on an outstretched hand, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the small bones of the wrist called carpal bones.
This pressure can also strain the ligaments, which are strong bands of tissue that hold the bones of your wrist together. These ligaments can be stretched in minor cases resulting in what is commonly known as a sprain. In more severe cases the ligaments can be torn. This pressure can also cause one or more of the carpal bones to break, resulting in severe pain and swelling. These types of injuries usually limit your ability to move your wrist and hand.
Wrist Injuries: Overuse
An overuse injury can also cause pain and mild swelling. The pain in an overuse injury is typically not as severe as pain caused by trauma; however, it can be just as limiting with regard to moving your hand and wrist. An overuse injury such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is commonly seen in individuals who do a lot of repetitive activities with their hands, such as typing on a keyboard or assembly-line type work.
The repetitive motion causes inflammation within the carpal tunnel, which is the track that the tendons of your hand and fingers move through as you flex and extend your hand and fingers. This inflammation results in pain primarily located in your wrist. Overuse injuries typically develop over time and can progress to the point of disability of the hand.
When to Go to the ER
For minor sprains, at home care is appropriate in most cases using the acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). For more severe injuries you should seek care as soon as possible. Signs and symptoms that should prompt you to seek care include:
- Pain and swelling of a minor sprain that continues to increases over 2-3 days
- Tenderness at the base of the thumb on the back of your hand
- Discoloration of your hand or decreased pulse at your wrist
- Sudden onset of numbness or loss of strength in your hand or fingers
- Significant swelling
- Inability to move your hand or fingers
Overuse injuries should also be evaluated; however, they do not typically require emergency room evaluation. Signs and symptoms of overuse injuries include:
- Increasing weakness or numbness of the hand or fingers over time
- Worsening symptoms caused by pressing on the palm side of your wrist or bending your wrist
Treatment for both traumatic injuries and overuse injuries typically involve splinting the injured wrist with follow-up with an orthopedic surgeon. The team at Emergis ER is committed to providing compassionate care so that your symptoms are not overlooked or generalized. Our aim is to always provide compassionate, personalized service that leads to accurate and timely care.