Wrist Pain After Car Accidents: Causes and What To Do Next

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The most common cause of wrist pain after a car accident is an injury like a broken wrist, wrist sprain, or contusions and abrasions around the wrist and hand. A wrist injury is typically caused by blunt force trauma from the collision that damages the bones and soft tissue of the wrist and hand.

Seek medical assistance right away if you begin to feel wrist pain after a car accident. When left untreated, an injury to delicate structures like muscles and nerve endings can result in permanent damage. To avoid chronic pain — and steep medical bills — seek a formal diagnosis for your injury.

A professional diagnosis will help you understand how to best treat your wrist injury, so you can begin healing from the trauma of your auto accident. Learn what to do next if you’ve suffered wrist pain after a car accident and how a trusted personal injury lawyer can help guide the way.

Causes of Car Accident-Related Hand Injuries

Hands are an essential part of operating a vehicle, so both are incredibly vulnerable to injury during an auto accident. Your hands are also one of the first body parts to respond to a crash. When you see a speeding vehicle approaching yours in your rearview mirror, your first instinct is likely to grip your hands on the steering wheel.

Unfortunately, tightly gripping the steering wheel to brace for impact is one of the worst things car accident victims can do in the moments before a crash. This motion ultimately tightens all of your muscles and channels the energy of the crash directly into the wrist and hand, which can tear soft tissues and shatter hard bones.

Another common cause of car crash-related hand injuries is blunt trauma. When another driver strikes your vehicle, the force of impact can move your body forward and backward or side-to-side. It’s likely your hand or wrist will strike something inside of your vehicle during the commotion, like the dashboard or side window, or come into contact with an airbag.

The Anatomy: How to Figure Out What’s Actually Hurting

Your wrists and hands contain a web of nerve endings and small bones that are vulnerable to injury during a car accident. The best way to figure out what’s actually causing wrist pain after a car accident is to visit a medical professional for diagnostic imaging like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.

An X-ray will help diagnose bone and joint injuries like fractures and dislocations. An MRI scan will reveal bone and joint damage as well as soft tissue injuries like torn cartilage. A CT scan will target hidden injuries in soft tissue, nerves, and blood cells.

To better understand what may be injured, take a look at the anatomy of the hand and wrist.

The Anatomy of the Hand

Each hand has five fingers made up of 14 individual bones called phalanges. Your five fingers are connected to the rest of your palm by five bones called metacarpals. Eight other small bones called carpals connect the rest of your hand to your wrist.

There are 27 joints inside of each hand. These joints are kept together by bands of connective soft tissue called ligaments. Other types of soft tissue, like muscles and tendons, give your hands strength and mobility. There are also three nerves in each hand that provide sensory and motor abilities.

The Anatomy of the Wrist

The eight carpal bones in each hand connect with two arm bones (your radius and ulna) to form your wrist. Each wrist has three joints: the radiocarpal joint, distal radioulnar joint, and ulnocarpal joint. There are thick bands of ligaments that protect these joints and form your carpal tunnel.

The carpal tunnel is a small opening in each wrist that allows crucial nerve flow, particularly for your median nerve. Your median nerve provides sensory and motor abilities to your thumb and middle three fingers. When it becomes compressed or injured, you will feel pain.

Symptoms You Might Experience with a Hand Injury

Nurse checking wrist of patient.

Wrist pain after a car accident may signify a hand or wrist injury. Discomfort in the hands or wrists may begin immediately after the crash or in the days or weeks that follow. Symptoms that do not start immediately are referred to as delayed pain symptoms. Even if delayed pain begins weeks after your collision, you should still visit a doctor to ensure you didn’t sustain permanent damage.

Every accident victim should keep an eye out for symptoms of a hand or wrist injury, including:

  • Redness or bruising
  • Stiffness in the joints
  • Soreness or tenderness
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Limited grip strength
  • Inability to form a fist
  • Burning in the hand or wrist
  • Warmth in the fingers, hands, or wrists
  • Trouble moving or straightening the fingers, hands, or wrists

The individual symptoms you experience will vary depending on the type of hand or wrist injury you sustained, so seek medical care if any of the above symptoms sound familiar.

Most Common Hand and Wrist Injuries Associated with Car Accidents

Car accidents primarily cause two types of hand and wrist injuries: bone injuries and soft tissue injuries. Take a look at the most common types of hand and wrist injuries associated with collisions and visit a doctor as soon as possible if you believe you’ve suffered one of the below conditions.

Bone Injuries

Bone injuries impact the 27 bones and joints located throughout the hand and wrist.

Bone Fracture

A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone. One of the most common fractures from a car accident is a wrist fracture, known medically as a scaphoid fracture. Another common broken bone is a distal radius fracture. This is a break in the larger bone of the forearm that can cause significant arm pain after a car accident.

A common bone fracture in the hand is a broken finger bone, called a broken phalanx. The carpal bones, which connect the hand to the wrist, can also break from the blunt trauma of a crash. Bone fractures often require the use of a cast or brace but may require surgery if the bone has broken in many places.

Bone and Joint Dislocations

A dislocation is when a bone or joint shifts out of its normal place in the wrist or hand. A total separation of the joint is referred to as a luxation, and a partial dislocation is referred to as a subluxation. Bone and joint dislocations often must be reset by a medical professional to heal.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries from car accidents are one of the most common accident injury types. Several different types of soft tissues form your wrists and hands, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Though soft tissues give your hands and wrists their strength, these structures are very delicate and can be easily torn during a traumatic crash.

Surface Wounds

The blunt force trauma of an auto accident can cause several surface wounds that tear into the skin and damage the soft tissue underneath, including:

  1. Contusion: A collection of broken blood capillaries, also known as a bruise.
  2. Abrasion: A scrape of the top layer of skin, sometimes called road rash.
  3. Laceration: A deep cut into the flesh.
  4. Puncture Wound: A narrow, deep wound caused by a sharp-pointed object.

In worst-case scenarios, deep lacerations can result in total amputations. You will likely know of an injury this severe immediately at the scene of the accident.

Wrist Sprains

A wrist sprain is when the muscles and ligaments connecting your wrists and hands become stretched or torn, causing pain and inflammation at the injury site. Wrist sprains are classified as Grade One, Two, or Three depending on the severity of ligament damage.

  1. Grade One: Ligaments are stretched but not torn. This minor sprain will likely not impact wrist function or strength.
  2. Grade Two: Ligaments are partially torn. This moderate sprain may limit function in the wrist and hand.
  3. Grade Three: Ligaments are completely torn. This is the most severe sprain that may potentially pull away small pieces of bone and cause an avulsion fracture.

Grade One wrist sprains typically need rest and a combination of hot and ice therapy to heal within a few weeks. Grade Two wrist sprains may require a sling to immobilize the area. Grade Three wrist sprains will likely require surgical intervention to heal the damage.

Tendon Damage

Tendons are soft tissue that connects bones to muscles. When your hand and wrist bones fracture during a crash, they can damage the neighboring tendons. Swollen or inflamed tendons cause tendonitis, which can limit the range of motion in the hands or wrists.

Ligament Injuries

Ligaments are a thick type of soft tissue that connects your bones at a joint. When a joint becomes dislocated, it can damage the connecting ligament. If a ligament tears in the wrist, it can cause inflammation that presses against your median nerve. A compressed median nerve may cause carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), creating numbness or tingling in the fingers and hands.

How Hiring an Injury Lawyer Can Help You

Wrist Pain After Car Accidents: Causes and What To Do Next 1

With more than four dozen bones in both hands and wrist combined, it’s no wonder a motor vehicle accident can cause hand and wrist pain. If you’re suffering wrist pain after a car accident that was limited or no fault of your own, you deserve compensation for your pain and suffering.

A personal injury lawyer can help you file an injury claim against the negligent driver to recoup medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle repair costs, and more. Do not suffer in silence. Contact a trusted personal injury lawyer for help filing your hand or wrist injury claim.

At David Bryant Law, a personal injury attorney is waiting to answer your legal questions and provide the assistance you need. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to learn how you can move forward from wrist pain after a car accident.

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David G. Bryant is certified to practice in all state courts in Kentucky, and federal courts in the Eastern and Western districts of Kentucky, Southern District of New York, Southern District of West Virginia, Northern District of Ohio, Middle District of Tennessee, and Western District of Pennsylvania. He is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.