(AscendHealthy.com) – If somebody puts repeated strain on their wrists, they can end up with a stress fracture. Stress fractures are more common in the foot and ankle, but people may be vulnerable to a stress fracture in the wrist if they engage in certain sports, which include gymnastics, certain styles of dance, weight lifting/powerlifting, and contact sports. People can also experience a stress fracture if they fall onto an outstretched hand, although this often leads to worse injuries.
What is a Stress Fracture?
A stress fracture is essentially a bruise inside the bone that eventually develops into a small crack from repetitive trauma. That is to say, stress fractures generally build up over time and can be prevented with good training and technique, or by building up to activity more slowly. Athletes should always strive to work in the best possible form and should never overtrain.
What Are the Symptoms of a Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures are often mistaken for soft tissue injury. Symptoms include:
- Pain or aching at the site of the fracture.
- Swelling at the site of the fracture.
- Tenderness when touched.
Pain from a stress fracture may begin after starting an activity and resolve with rest, may be present throughout and not go away, and even occur while at rest. It typically worsens over time. It may also get worse at night. Athletes may also notice weakness and an impact on performance.
Stress fractures are difficult to see on x-rays; in fact, x-rays miss about 2/3 of stress fractures. This means that a doctor may recommend a bone scan or MRI. MRIs are typically preferred because they are faster and can also diagnose other issues not visible on x-rays.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have a Stress Fracture in Your Wrist?
First of all, rest. Stop any activities that might worsen the injury or cause pain. This might include typing, lifting objects, etc. Schedule an appointment to see a doctor right away.
People with stress fractures should follow their doctor’s instructions as an untreated stress fracture can worsen and even become a displaced fracture that might require surgery. Stress fractures can also lead to arthritis.
Typically, the injured wrist must be rested for two to eight weeks, depending on the affected bone and the severity of the fracture. Physical therapy may be prescribed to help return the person to normal activity. Athletes may also work with their coach or trainer on adjusting their technique to avoid further damage.
They might need to wear a cast or a brace while their wrist heals.
How to Prevent Stress Fractures
Stress fractures can really interfere with somebody’s life, especially if they are training. Athletes in particular should be careful to avoid stress fractures by:
- Not training while in pain.
- Using correct equipment.
- Start and restart new activities slowly, building up the time, speed, and distance.
- Warming up and cooling down properly.
- Adding strength training also helps slow bone density loss and build muscle in general.
- Consider a calcium and vitamin D supplement to help support bone health.
- Cross-train properly to avoid repetitive stress on a particular part of the body.
- Always working with proper form.
One risk factor for stress fractures is having had one before. In other words, somebody who has had one stress fracture in a wrist is likely to have another and should be especially careful to use proper form and equipment and to adjust their form to try and keep the issue from coming back.
Stress fractures in the wrist are rarer than in the foot or leg, but can happen in people who repeatedly put a lot of strain on their wrists, such as gymnasts. It’s important to know the symptoms and to seek treatment so that the fracture does not become worse.
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