After a fall on an outstretched hand, it can be difficult to determine what type of wrist injury has occurred. The resulting injury is ususally a sprain or a fracture.

A fracture is the medical term for a broken bone. The most common type of wrist fracture is a distal radius fracture, which is a fracture at the end of the long radius bone of the forearm. Another type of wrist fracture is a scaphoid fracture, which is a fracture at one of the eight small round carpal bones in the wrist. Scaphoid fractures are less common, but more difficult to heal, than distal radius fractures.

A sprain occurs occur when a ligament—a fibrous bands of tissue that connects bones to each other—is stretched or torn. Wrist sprains are frequently caused by injury of the scapholunate ligament, an important ligament that connects the scaphoid and the lunate carpal bones.

Both wrist fractures and wrist sprains can lead to swelling, bruising, pain with movement, and/or weakness. Unless there is a fractured bone breaking through the skin, the best way to tell a fracture from a sprain is to perform an x-ray on the wrist.

This information is not intended or implied as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images or other information provided is intended for general information purposes only. Always consult with your physician for diagnosis or treatment.