What is Scapholunate Instability?

22 August 2017

The wrist's structure is complex compared to its relatively small size, so it's all too easy to damage the area. Scapholunate instability is a painful condition that occurs when the ligament between the scaphoid bone and lunate bone is torn. Read our comprehensive guide to find out more about the condition and what you can do to treat it.

What is Scapholunate Instability?

The wrist is made up of seven different bones, all of which are connected by a system of ligaments. It's thanks to these ligaments that you are able to move your wrist so easily; any wrist movement you make causes the bones to move as one because the ligaments hold the bones together. The scapholunate ligament binds the scaphoid and lunate bones together and helps stabilise the wrist. If this ligament tears, the bones begin to move away from one another.

Instability in this area is the most common form of carpal instability and refers to a wide number of conditions ranging from a partial ligament tear to the rupturing of the scapholunate interosseus ligament complex. It's important that the ligament is fixed as soon as possible to ensure instability in the area doesn't get out of hand.

Causes of the Condition

Scapholunate instability is most commonly caused when you sustain trauma to the area, such as if you fall on a sprained wrist. The condition can occur as a standalone injury, but it most commonly occurs with other wrist injuries.

As the condition is usually caused by a fall, it most commonly affects athletes or those who lead active lifestyles. Instability in this area is often overlooked and might instead be treated as a sprain. If you notice your pain is getting worse instead of better even when treating the "sprain," it's important that you try to get more tests done.

Signs and Symptoms of the Scapholunate Instability

When you sustain the injury, you'll likely experience pain in the affected area but this tends to subside soon afterwards. The pain will sometimes develop over time and will often occur when you move your wrist backwards or forwards. You might also hear your wrist snap when you try to move it, and this will cause further pain. Other symptoms include:

  • Weakness in your grip
  • Swelling or tenderness
  • Snapping or popping

How to Treat the Condition

As ligaments don't heal themselves over time, scapholunate instability in the wrist is usually treated surgically. The ligament is usually reattached to the scaphoid or lunate bone depending on where it is torn. However, if the ligament is torn halfway or several weeks have passed since the injury occurred, your surgeon will likely reconstruct the ligament using the flexor tendon running through your wrist.

Once you've undergone surgery, it's integral that the area is immobilised and activities that would cause pain (e.g. gripping objects) are kept to a minimum. This might be easier if you wear a splint or brace to support your wrist and prevent you from moving it awkwardly. Along your recovery, your doctor will tell you when you can begin using the joint and you'll likely begin performing strengthening exercises and using hand rehabilitation aids.

When Can I Get Back to Training or Work?

As the scapholunate instability is more prevalent in sportspeople, you might be wondering when you can get back to your training. This will largely depend on the severity of the injury and how the instability is treated, but it can last up to six months. You should be capable of training with your other limbs while you recover from the condition, though doing so might risk further falls and injuries.

Scapholunate Instability at Wrist Supports

When the ligament between your scaphoid and lunate bones is unstable and you've undergone treatment, you might be tempted to use the wrist but this can lead to further pain. Here at Wrist Supports, we've created a range of supports specifically for scapholunate instability to help you recover from the condition. Simply click the yellow button below to view our range for the injury.


Do you have a question to ask or something to add? Why not leave us a comment below or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

Call us now: 020 7501 0590 Mon - Fri / 9:00am - 5:00pm
Wrist Supports
0 items - £0.00View Basket


on orders of £40 and over.


Read our reviews.


with our 30 day returns policy.