Nov 10, 2021

Interviewer: Wrist sprain or fracture? Dr. Troy Madsen, how can a person tell the difference?

Dr. Madsen: Well, sometimes, you know, wrist fractures are pretty obvious. You fall down, you hit your wrist, you look at it, it's deformed, it's swollen, you know you need an x-ray. But then there are other times you're asking yourself, "Do I really need to get an x-ray of this? Is it broken or did I just sprain it?

So typically, with fractures, it's going to hurt on the bone. Usually, there's swelling. It's not often I've seen fractures where there's just no swelling there. So typically, you're going to have at least some swelling, and usually that swelling is not going to get better or doesn't get much better after a couple of days.

So if you're on the fence and you're thinking, "Well, everything looks fine. It's not deformed. Is it sprained? Is it broken?" it's okay to maybe give it a day or two. If it's still hurting a lot, it very well may be broken and you need an x-ray to check that out.

updated: November 10, 2021
originally published: April 4, 2018

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