This wrist joint is made up of many small bones with articular cartilage covering the ends of each bone where they meet in a joint. Articular cartilage is a smooth, slippery substance which allows the bones to slide against one another without causing damage to either surface. Ligaments connect all the small wrist bones to each other. Ligaments also connect the bones of the wrist with the radius, ulna, and metacarpal bones. These ligaments are important in balancing the movement of all of the wrist bones. When one or more of these ligaments is injured, the way the bones move together as a unit is altered. This can lead to problems in the wrist joint that cause pain. Eventually, arthritis may develop in the wrist joint.
There are many ligaments in the wrist that can get injured, but a scapholunate ligament tear is the most common wrist injury. The scapholunate ligament helps stabilise your wrist by binding lunate and the scaphoid bones.
By far the most common way the wrist is injured is a fall on an outstretched hand. The same type of force can happen in other ways, such as when you brace your self on the dashboard before a car accident.
When an injury occurs, pain and swelling are the main symptoms. The wrist may become discoloured and bruised. The wrist may remain painful for several weeks. There are no specific symptoms that allow your surgeon to determine whether a wrist ligament injury has occurred. Once the initial pain of the injury has subsided, the wrist may remain painful due to the instability of the ligaments. If the ligaments have been damaged and have not healed properly, the bones do not slide against one another correctly as the wrist is moved. This can result in pain and a clicking or snapping sensation as the wrist is used for gripping activities.
The treatment of a ligament injury depends on whether it is an acute injury (just happened within weeks) or a chronic injury (something that happened months ago). A wrist injury that causes a partial injury to a ligament, a true wrist sprain, may simply be treated with a cast or splint for three to six weeks to allow the ligament to heal.
In cases where the ligaments are completely torn and the joints are no longer lined up, surgery may be suggested to either repair the ligaments or pin the bones together in the proper alignment to hold them in place while the ligaments heal. There is no single operation that is used to fix ligament injuries of the wrist. Several surgical procedures are used depending on the problem, such as Scapholunate Ligament Repair and Wrist Ligament Reconstruction surgery.