The wrist, one of the most complex joints in the body, is particularly vulnerable to injury. It is made up of 15 bones, which are held together by an intricate network of ligaments. These bones and soft tissues work together to allow for a great deal of mobility in the hand while facilitating stability in the forearm.
We use our wrists for various activities throughout the day, such as typing, driving, opening doors, playing video games, cooking, and playing sports. Unfortunately, when losing your balance, you often use your wrists to break your fall. Therefore, the wrists become susceptible to damage from these types of movements and accidents.
But if you hurt a joint, how do you know whether you have a wrist sprain or a wrist break? When should you visit a chiropractor for this type of injury?
Sprain vs. Break in Wrist
Imagine that you’re strolling in the park. Your toe clips a tree root, and you topple forward. To protect your face and head, you reach out with your hands. As you hit the ground, you feel a sharp, painful sensation traveling from your wrist to your fingers and forearm, and you hear a noticeable pop.
A wrist sprain vs. a wrist break can feel similar, and you might not know how to identify your injury. A sprain involves damage to the ligaments that support the bones and muscles. A fracture is a break in the bone.
But how do you know if it’s a sprain vs. break in your wrist? If the arm is bent at an unusual angle or the wrist has unusual motion, you have most likely broken your wrist, even though a wrist break is not always that obvious.
The best next step is to visit a chiropractic care center, where a chiropractic professional can diagnose a sprain vs. break in the wrist in several ways:
- Physical examination: A broken wrist may not look much different than a sprained one. However, both may be swollen, tender to the touch, stiff, and painful.
- Wrist instability tests: The strength and mobility of the joint are assessed to identify a sprain vs. break in the wrist.
- X-Rays: X-rays can identify or rule out a broken wrist. Although X-rays don’t show soft tissue, they may expose characteristics of sprains, such as gaps or overlapping of the bones.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasound imaging can show swelling, fluid accumulations, nerve damage, and venous injury.
- Magnetic resonance imaging: An MRI detects ligament and soft tissue damage.
You might ask yourself how to tell if your wrist is broken without seeing a specialist. One way to identify a sprain vs. break in the wrist is to hold a tuning fork to the injured area. As it vibrates, it will cause severe pain if the bone is fractured. However, it shouldn’t generate much discomfort if you have a sprain.
Why It’s Important to See a Professional for a Wrist Injury
Because your wrist is such a crucial and complex part of the body, injury to the joint can cause other problems if it’s not treated correctly. For example, failing to correct a wrist sprain vs. break can lead to cartilage damage, chronic pain, and arthritis. Again, understanding your condition will help you know what to expect and undergo appropriate treatment.
How Long It Takes for a Wrist Sprain to Heal?
How long does a wrist sprain last? A sprain is typically slower to heal than a wrist break. A minor to moderate fracture that doesn’t require surgery should heal within about 6 to 8 weeks. However, a wrist sprain may take 2 to 10 weeks to resolve itself.
A chiropractic care center can help you identify the condition and recommend physical therapy and other treatments to aid in your recovery. If you’re wondering how to heal wrist sprain fast, you may want to look into soft tissue and taping techniques. However, understanding whether you have a wrist sprain vs. break will allow you to determine how long to rest the joint using a wrist sprain wrap and when to start exercising the joint again.
Treatments and Exercises for Wrist Sprain or Break
As we have mentioned, you should always consult with a professional before beginning a treatment regimen or exercises for a wrist sprain or fracture. We can answer how long it takes for a wrist sprain to heal at our chiropractic care center and recommend treatments to speed up the wrist sprain healing process. We can also help you optimize your recovery from a wrist fracture while you work with an orthopedist.
Some of the options that we use to help you recover from a wrist break or sprain include:
- Wrist sprain KT tape for pain relief, joint alignment, inflammation reduction, and improved circulation
- Graston technique for post-surgical pain and scar tissue reduction
- Functional and kinetic treatment with rehabilitation, provocation and motion, and FAKTR to accelerate healing and complement other chiropractic techniques
- Rehabilitation physical therapy and exercises for wrist sprain and wrist break to restore full function and prevent future injury
Some of the best exercises for recovering after a wrist break or sprain include:
- Rubber band extension: Wrap a rubber band around the tips of all of your fingers. Spread out your fingers, feeling the resistance from the rubber band, before relaxing.
- Wrist extension, pronation, and supination: Holding your forearm steady, rotate your wrist back and forth. Hold a heavy object, such as a hammer or soup can, for more resistance.
- Tyler twist: Hold a hand towel taught between two hands. Twist your hands akin to twisting the handlebars of a motorcycle, but rotate the wrists in opposite directions.
If you can do these exercises, you probably have a wrist sprain. If you are unable to do any of the exercises above, you likely have a wrist break. Our chiropractic care center will guide you toward following an approach to healing relevant to your condition.
At the Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, led by Dr. Gregory Doerr, follows the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. Our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care and services in a comfortable healing atmosphere. Contact us to learn more about our chiropractic services!