Physiotherapy & Wrist Injuries

In a world of computers your wrists are subjected to the horrible abuse of constant typing. Your wrists also carry a lot of weight when exercising, which is a lot of strain on otherwise a very fine structure. Wrist injuries are commonplace, and their treatment is very much dependent on good physical therapy for a complete recovery.

Common wrist injuries

A number of different occupations and in fact many aspects of daily life carry with them a risk of injury to your wrist, the following is a list of common injuries and their causes:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – is a very common condition which presents with wrist and/or hand pain and pins and needle sensations. The wrist is a meeting place for bones of the hand and lower arm, and is riddled with vasculature, musculature, and wrist (Carpal) bones. The Carpal Tunnel is a very space between Carpal bones, and the condition occurs when there is inflammation or swelling in this area. A major change that happens during Carpal Tunnel is pressure change that is exacerbated by wrist movement, causing pain. Carpal Tunnel is actually often involved with other medical conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, and arthritis. Other common causes are repetitive wrist movements.
  • Capitate Fracture (Broken Wrist) – typically a consequence of a fall, a Capitate fracture is a specific break in the Capitate bone. The wrist is actually composed of eight small bones that can be broken. Capitate fractures often occur alongside a break in another wrist bone called the Scaphoid (read on). Typical symptoms include pain and tenderness towards the back of your wrist, movement in this direction will cause pain. A facture in the Capitate is quite complicated in that the bone has a very poor blood supply. Healthy blood flow is critically important to the healing process as essential nutrients and minerals are carried to an injury by means of the vasculature.
  • Scaphoid Fracture (Broken Wrist) – A Scaphoid fracture is not unlike a Capitate break, and the two often occur together, the symptoms are similar, however in this instance pain is towards the direction of the thumb.

Physiotherapy and the treatment of wrist injuries

Wrist fractures are extremely painful, and it is absolutely vital that full functionality is restored after treatment. This is where physiotherapy comes in. After the initial treatment of placing the wrist in a cast, regular appointments with a physio will be arranged to follow a regime of exercises. Cold therapy will be applied to reduce residual swelling, and a wrist support worn, at least initially, to reduce the risk of further injury.

A physiotherapist has a number of techniques meant to facilitate the recovery of hand strength and dexterity. Therapeutic putty is a malleable substance which you can be asked to work in specific exercises to improve your dexterity and fine muscle control. Therapy balls can be used to relieve stiffness in the wrist, these are compactable balls that you squeeze. Similarly hand and grip strength are worked through resistance training, gradually increasing said resistance as the hand recovers. These techniques are all used in treatment for Carpal Tunnel as well, and form the basis for physiotherapy of the wrist.

Your physio might also suggest hydrotherapy, which involves exercises in warm water, which provides a good environment as it warms the muscles of the hand and provides very mild resistance while rehydrating your skin. Your physio will judge the best pace for your recovery, and it’s extremely important to follow their professional advice to prevent exacerbating your condition.

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