Being active in the winter is good for our mental and physical health, but don’t let bad luck sideline you with a fractured hand or broken wrist. These injuries are extremely common, especially in winter months when skiing, snowboarding or slipping on ice, can quickly lead to a Fall onto an outstretched hand – also known as “FOOSH” among orthopedic experts.
FOOSH tends to break the larger bone in your forearm, called the radius, which is also the bone most often broken in the arm. The end of the radius, closest to the hand, is known as the distal end, and not surprisingly, the most common cause of a distal radius fracture is a FOOSH.
When sustaining the weight of a fall, the wrist can fracture in many ways, and the break may extend into the wrist joint or be limited to the arm bone only.
Immediate signs of a wrist fracture include swelling, bruising, pain to the touch and visual deformity. The presence of numbness or difficulty moving fingers are also signs to seek immediate treatment. Time counts; delays can impair healing and limit future strength and range of motion.
Treatment options for a broken wrist are determined by the location of the break and its severity. Generally, joint immobilization (splinting or casting) and surgery are used to restore mobility, and physical therapy is employed to aid the recovery process and rebuild strength. If the fracture has interrupted blood flow to a wrist bone, a portion of the bone may die. In these cases, bone grafts and bone fusion may be used to aid healing.
Another very common cause of hand or wrist pain that spans the seasons is ganglion cysts.
If you have a lump in your hand or wrist, chances are it’s a ganglion cyst. These common and treatable fluid-filled sacs often appear on hand and wrist tendons or joints. Ganglion cysts are identified with medical assessment and most are easily treatable.
The cyst itself is generally painless, but the location of a ganglion cyst may impede hand or wrist movement or compress a corresponding nerve – which triggers pain on that nerve.
While these sacs can grow in a variety of joints on the bottom or the top of the wrist, they are most common on the top of the wrist. The size of the sac tends to grow with use and recede with inactivity.
Although ganglion cysts can present in a variety of patients, they are more prominent in females younger than 40 and in those who have high incidence or impact of wrist use. Cysts that develop on the finger (mucous cysts) tend to be associated with older patients and those with arthritis.
Ganglion cysts often clear on their own; however, some cysts require draining (aspiration) or removal (excision). During evaluation, an orthopedic specialist typically will assess the origin of the sac, its fluctuations in size, level of discomfort, and impact on mobility. The exam will reveal if the mass is fluid or a solid mass and identify if rest, draining, or removal offers the best outcome. They will also look at the patients’ history of arthritis and review current medications.
Aspiration offers relief from pain and addresses the visible appearance. But that relief may be temporary because, while the draining removes the fluid which comprises the cyst’s mass, the root sac remains. Excision (removal of the cyst) addresses this issue. Most patients find this outpatient procedure to be fairly simple and highly beneficial, and most can resume normal activities within two to six weeks. Physical therapy is frequently a part of successful recovery.