At this time of year it isn’t difficult to imagine what would happen if you slipped on a patch of wet ground and fell. Chances are, you would reach out to try to brace yourself against the impact. This reflex is hard wired into your brain and reacts within 10 to 30 milliseconds after tripping to protect you from serious injury. In the best of circumstances, you end up with a bruised ego. In the worst, a fall on snow, ice or otherwise slippery surface can result in serious injury to your hands or wrists. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of five falls causes a broken bone or other serious injury.

Broken Bone

When it comes to slipping and falling, the most common injury to a wrist is a buckle fracture, or incomplete fracture to the radius. This bone runs along the thumb side of your wrist from your wrist to your elbow and takes the brunt of a fall when you reach down to try to catch yourself. Buckle fractures are particularly painful to the touch and often swell at the site of the break. Most commonly, these wrist injuries are treated with a splint or cast while the bone heals. Once the splint is removed, the wrist, hand and fingers will be weaker than they were before the injury because they have not been in use. At this point, it is important to complete a hand therapy treatment program to regain the strength and mobility in your wrist to avoid injury to the weakened tendons, ligaments and muscles.

Wrist Sprain

After a fall, if there is no sign of broken bones, your wrist may be sprained. Some people refer to it as “jammed”. In simplest terms, a sprain happens when ligaments that hold bones in place with other bones are stretched or slightly torn. Since there are eight bones in the wrist, known as carpals, there are a series of ligaments that hold them in place that are at risk for being sprained in a fall. Unfortunately, a wrist sprain, while painful, takes time to heal. However, that does not mean you need to keep your wrist immobile while it does. Targeted exercises followed by ice therapy and compression are great for helping a wrist stay mobile and strong while it heals. Hand therapy also strengthens the surrounding muscles and tissue to keep the wrist in place during normal activities. This, in turn, helps the wrist heal properly, prevents injury in the future and keeps you from experiencing lasting pain from a simple injury.