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Wrist Fracture vs. Wrist Sprain

VSON doctor explains wrist fracture vs. wrist sprain

A wrist fracture and wrist sprain are the most common arm injuries. Without proper treatment, a wrist injury can lead to a high level of long-term complications. The wrist trauma specialists at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurology offer expert care and can eliminate complications from a broken wrist or wrist sprain. Patients are concerned, “How do I know if my injury is a wrist fracture vs. wrist sprain?”

An accurate diagnosis is the first step to treating a wrist fracture vs. wrist sprain. VSON’s highly trained wrist trauma specialists have the expertise to provide the correct diagnosis and care. Our team of wrist trauma doctors includes:

Wrist Fracture

A wrist fracture occurs to the distal radius of the forearm. An outstretched hand used to break a fall is often the cause of a broken wrist. The fracture typically occurs within 1 inch from the wrist joint. Younger patients usually experience a high-impact event. Older patients may experience a minor impact, but with bone loss, a small impact event can lead to a broken wrist.

Symptoms of a wrist fracture include:

  • Immediate severe pain

  • Sensation of crack/crunch

  • Tenderness, bruising, swelling

  • Increased pain with motion

  • Change/deformity

The fracture will either be full or partial and displaced (off position) or non-displaced (in position).

Wrist Sprain

A wrist sprain is an injury to the wrist joint capsule and ligaments when they are stretched beyond the natural range of motion. Like a broken wrist, a wrist sprain most commonly happens when an outstretched hand is used to break a fall. A wrist sprain can also occur with high impact event or repetitive wrist motion seen in certain sports. Symptoms of wrist sprain include:

  • Pain at the joint and radiating

  • Tenderness, swelling, stiffness, weakness

  • Increased pain with use

  • Sensation of popping/tearing

Wrist Fracture vs. Wrist Sprain

Symptoms of a wrist fracture and wrist sprain are similar. Patients should be aware of additional factors affecting a broken wrist or wrist sprain.

  • Level of impact: low to high – depending on the age and health of the patient.

  • Persistent pain: even with restricted motion.

  • Hot to the touch: increased blood flow to damage.

  • Diagnosis of wrist sprain: Without diagnostic imaging, an occult (hidden) fracture may be misdiagnosed as a sprain. Diagnostic imaging is required to determine if the patient has a broken wrist.

  • Tingling/Numbness: damage to blood vessels and nerves.

The structure of the wrist is complex, requiring an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to prevent complications.

Wrist Doctor Near Me

Contact our wrist trauma physicians for expert care today! Schedule an appointment with Dr. Dorf or Dr. Joseph, who practice in all three clinic locations. To schedule and appointment in Edwards call (970) 569-3240, Vail (970) 476-7220, and Frisco (970) 668-3633.


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