As all of you are aware, this is the time for Wintery weather and if you are in Ireland at the moment, you’ll all know only too well of the ice and snow that are afflicting the nation and causing people to slip and fall! The Emergency departments are filled with injuries caused from falling on ice this week!
Some of the most common injuries from slipping on ice involve your wrist …
1. Scaphoid Fracture of the Wrist
The scaphoid is one of the small bones in the wrist. It is the bone in the wrist that is most likely to break. The scaphoid bone can be located by positioning your thumb at a right angle from the hand (like you’re hitch-hiking!). You’ll find the scaphoid bone in the hollow made by the thumb tendons. Pain or tenderness in this area can be a sign that the scaphoid is injured. It can sometimes take up to ten days for the fracture in the scaphoid to be properly diagnosed on an x-ray, so if the pain is persisting after that time it is advisable that you organize a 2nd x-ray to confirm the scaphoid fracture.
A scaphoid fracture is usually caused by a fall on an outstretched hand, with the weight landing on the palm. Like a slip on the ice! The end of one of the forearm bones (the radius) may also break in this type of fall, depending on the position of the hand on landing.
Another, commonly broken bone of the wrist is the radius. When a wrist bone is broken, there is pain, swelling, and decreased use of the hand and wrist. Often the wrist appears crooked and deformed. You’ll find it hard to grip or make a fist. Fractures of the small wrist bones, such as the scaphoid, are unlikely to appear deformed
For a diagram of the wrist and hand see http://www.fpnotebook.com/media/WristCarpalBones.gif
2. Wrist Sprains
What is a sprain?
A sprain is an injury to a ligament. Ligaments are the connective tissues that connect and stabilize one bone to another bone; they could be thought of as very strong tape that holds the bones together at a joint. A sprain may upset the normal coordinated movements of the wrist bones resulting in persistent stiffness, pain, swelling, and possible instability.
How are wrist sprains treated?
The goals of treating a wrist ligament injury are to:
– provide pain relief
– minimize potential stiffness or loss of motion
– restore wrist joint stability
– reduce the risk of long-term consequences of an untreated wrist ligament injury (arthritis, pain, instability)
The treatment of a wrist sprain is guided by the severity of the injury. Similar to a sprained ankle, milder ligament sprains of the wrist may be treated with a reduction in activity, support bands, ice to reduce inflammation and gradual return to activity.
For less severe wrist sprains, the ligaments usually heal well – occasionally, the injury and healing response may cause stiffness and your physical therapist may advise stretching and motion exercises to minimize the potential for longer term loss of wrist mobility.
* It’s important to make sure you ice the injury as soon as you can after the initial fall to prevent swelling!*
3. Fracture to the head of the Radius bone of the forearm.
It is what it sounds like…! It will need to be diagnosed by x-ray and may be in a cast for a few weeks until the fracture heals. Weakness will follow, so beginning your physical therapy and rehabilitation treatment as soon as the cast comes off would be advised!
Here are some great tips for walking on ice and snow:
- Wear shoes or boots with good grips or treads on the sole. Shoes like trainers and high heels do not have enough stability or grip to prevent slipping.
- Do not walk in shaded areas where ice can build up.
- Use a ski pole or walking stick to work through icy spots.
- At home, apply salt/grit to your paths and driveways.
If you feel yourself slip on ice, the worst thing you can do is try to break your fall with an outstretched arm or leg (unless you think you will hit your head if you don’t.) Not alone will you possibly injure your arm/wrist…. You’ll have a bruised bum aswell!!
So stay warm and stay safe people!