Did you know that hand and wrist injuries are both incredibly common ? Whether you work at an office or at a construction site, it can be easy for you to get a wrist injury on the job. The same goes for athletes and guitar players. Aside from what we would consider acute injuries to the wrist, some may be from chronic use or abuse, and occur over time.
If you’ve had a wrist injury, then chances are you’re considering seeing a hand doctor. However, you may have several questions, such as:
“How do I know if it’s a serious injury?”
“If I go to a wrist doctor, what will they do during the consultation?”
“How do I know if I have to go to the ER?”
In addition to having many questions, chances are you’re stressed out and frustrated by your injury. Because you use your hands all the time, a wrist injury can feel debilitating. If you use your hands extensively at work, then you need your wrist to work now, so you can go back.
That’s why we’ve put together this article. By helping you identify if you have to see a doctor for your wrist injury, you’ll get the help you need and go back to living your normal life. Read on to learn more.
Signs You Need to See a Hand Doctor
A lot of the time, wrist injuries are not serious and can be healed with simple rest. However, there are some signs you should watch out for in case you need to see a hand doctor. If you’ve had pain in your wrist for a week or longer, then it’s time to see a doctor about your wrist injury.
Other signs that you need a hand doctor’s opinion are:
- Your pain gets worse, even though you’ve been resting your wrist
- You feel pain in your wrist even when you aren’t using it, or when you’re trying to sleep
- When you’re doing usual activities such as washing dishes or holding a grocery bag, the pain gets worse
- There are signs that your hand pain is being caused by an infection, which can include symptoms such as tenderness, redness, warmth, or a fever of 100 Fahrenheit
If you experience any of these symptoms, then wrist pain relief at home is not enough. Instead, you need to get in touch with your doctor so that a potential infection doesn’t develop or so your wrist, which might be sprained or broken, doesn’t get worse.
What Happens When You See the Doctor
When you find the best hand doctor in your area, there are certain things you should expect to happen during your appointment. The first thing your doctor will do is take a look at your wrist with only their eyes, seeing if there are any issues with your wrist such as deformity, swelling, or tenderness.
Next, they’ll have you do some hand exercises so that they can see what your range of motion is, as well as how strong your wrist and hand are. At this point, they should have an idea of wrist injury types that should be affecting you. If needed, you might also get an X-ray.
Once your doctor has made an assessment of your wrist injury, they will give you information on how to treat your injury. They might prescribe you with pain medication or suggest some over-the-counter options.
Additionally, they might recommend you go to a hand therapist so that you get your hand into shape over time.
If necessary, they’ll provide you with a brace or put your wrist in a cast so that your injured wrist isn’t moving around too much, worsening your symptoms and preventing it from healing.
Surgery might also be necessary if your bone has been fractured or you’ve had a tear in your ligament or tendon.
When You Need to Go to the ER
Usually, you can wait to go to the doctor if you have a wrist injury, to see if it gets worse over the course of a week. However, there are some cases when you need to get medical attention immediately. These cases include:
- You suspect you have a broken bone, or it’s easy to see with the naked eye that your wrist is deformed in some way
- When hurting your wrist, you also got an open wound, which won’t stop bleeding or won’t heal
- Your pain is so intense that you can’t do anything
- You have clear signs of infection, which can include symptoms such as tenderness, redness, warmth, or a fever of 100 Fahrenheit
- You have a potential dislocation of the wrist bones (the bones have moved out of place).
If you don’t go to the ER or urgent care quickly, you can end up with a deformed wrist or with an infection that spreads your body. It’s better to go to the ER if you have any of these signs, so that your injury does not worsen and cause additional health problems.
Different Types of Wrist Injuries
It’s important to understand the different types of wrist injuries there are, so you can identify if it’s something that has to be treated with a doctor. Additionally, there are some other underlying reasons that can cause wrist pain that aren’t actually injuries in the wrist.
Wrist injuries you might be experiencing include a fracture to any of the eight bones present in your wrist, damaged tendons in your wrist (which attach muscles to bones), or damaged ligaments (which hold bones together where the joints are). Carpal Dislocations can also occur, when one of the wrist bones moves out of place. It is usually associated with a ligament injury. Additionally, you might have a burn on your wrist which is causing the pain.
When it comes to these specific wrist injuries, you’ll want to see a doctor if the fractured bones seem serious, or if you believe your tendons or ligaments to not only be stretched, but ripped. As for burns, if you have persistent pain after having burned yourself, you should see a doctor.
Other Causes of Wrist Pain
There are other causes of wrist pain. The most common of these is carpal tunnel syndrome, which significantly impacts women and anyone who works at a job where they’re doing the same movement over and over with their hands.
Signs of carpal tunnel are numbness or tingling in your wrist and hands, or feeling like your hands are burning. Generally speaking, you won’t need to go to the doctor for carpal tunnel syndrome. All you have to do is stop doing what has caused it for a while.
However, if your carpal tunnel syndrome continues to persist, then you will need to go to a doctor to talk about hand therapy and potential surgery.
Another common cause of wrist pain is arthritis. If you’re over 60, then chances are you’re suffering with arthritis, an affliction that affects many people as they get older. When you suffer from arthritis, your joints are affected. If you have trouble flexing joints, you likely have arthritis.
When it comes to arthritis, you will want to speak with your doctor. This is because arthritis is a condition that develops over time. If caught early, you will have fewer issues with arthritis as you get older. It’s not only your wrist you should be worrying about, but all of your joints, in this case.
There’s also DeQuirvain’s tendinopathy, which occurs when the tendons in your wrist have issues. Tendons in your wrist have a sheath around them that protects them, and it can become inflamed sometimes, making your wrist swell, feel pain, and stiffen.
If you play sports often, then chances are you have DeQuirvain’s tendinopathy. If the pain goes away after a few days, we don’t recommend going to the doctor. However, if it worsens, or persists over the course of a week, we do.
When You Don’t Need A Doctor
However, there are situations when you don’t need a doctor. If you feel your pain lessening over time and it’s only a small annoyance during your daily life, then there’s no need to see a doctor. In this case, there are at-home treatments that can help you with your wrist injury.
Resting Your Wrist
Often, wrist pain comes from an injury (for example, while you’re playing sports) or from a repeated movement at work (for example, typing constantly). If you simply lay off using your wrist for a few days or a week, the pain can subside on its own.
However, you may have some problems explaining this to your boss. Especially if you got your injury at work, and you’re expected to continue doing the same movement that could make it worse, you might have to speak with HR about this issue.
Additionally, getting a note from your doctor can help get you some paid days off, or at least some understanding from your boss.
Brace or Splint
If you feel pain anytime you do the movement that caused your wrist injury in the first place, then we recommend using a brace or splint. You don’t need to see a doctor to get one; you can simply go to your nearest health store or buy it online.
A brace or splint is especially useful if your pain simply won’t go away. This will keep your wrist from moving in a painful way. However, if the pain persists even with the brace or splint on, we recommend you see a doctor.
Ice or Heat
Sometimes, the simple solution of putting some ice (or a bag of peas) on your swollen wrist can alleviate the pain and swelling. You can also use a warm compress if you’re suffering from tenderness.
Sometimes, switching between cold and hot can also make your wrist feel better.
If your pain really is persistent, you can use anti-inflammatory medications, also called NSAIDs. They’ll lessen the inflammation in your wrist and take away some of your pain. However, they can have negative side effects when mixed with other medications, so be careful and ensure there won’t be any issues if you’re already on other medication.
If anti-inflammatory medications aren’t for you, you can take an alternative like Tylenol, or try a pain-reducing salve as a topical solution.
Yoga and Hand Therapy
There are also specialists who can help you deal with your wrist injury. By teaching you the right stretches, they can fix your problem so that you don’t have to get surgery. Whether you work with a yoga teacher or a doctor who specializes in hand therapy, you’ll feel better soon.
Exercises for Your Wrist
To prevent wrist injuries in the future, we recommend you do wrist exercises to keep it flexible and strong. Especially if you use your hands, fingers, or wrists often at work, you will benefit from doing these exercises.
For example, there’s the hand wave. Lift your hand up on the edge of a table, resting it on a rolled-up towel, and wave slowly. This will strengthen your wrist. For additional wrist exercises, check out this list of exercises from Healthline.
Surgery for the wrist
Once you have seen a hand doctor, he or she will determine whether or not conservative treatment is adequat, or wrist surgery would be required to address the wrist injury. There are different types of procedures of the wrist, depending on the injury and location. Sometimes minimally invasive, arthroscopic wrist surgery can be performed, othertimes, you may need an open wrist procedure. Details of different surgical procedures are beyond the scope of this article, but see our website for more information.
Need More Help?
Do you need more help figuring out if you need to see a hand doctor for your wrist injury? Or maybe you’re looking for the right doctor in your area, but you don’t know where to get started. Whatever help you might need, we’re here to help and answer any of your questions.
At Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, we deal with all kinds of hand, wrist, and finger injuries. We can help you determine if you need to see a doctor, and what treatments are necessary, including surgery. Contact us today for more information.