A wrist sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the wrist. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. Repetitive motion can also lead to these types of injuries.
Factors that increase your chance of getting a wrist sprain include:
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to a wrist sprain. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions:
It can be hard to tell the difference between a wrist sprain and a fracture or dislocation of one of the small wrist bones. See your doctor if there is any deformity, swelling, or if you are unable to move your wrist or hand.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and how you injured your wrist. An exam of your wrist will be done to check the stability of the joint and the severity of the injury.
Wrist sprains are graded according to their severity:
The following medicines may help reduce inflammation and pain:
Topical pain medicines like creams and patches are also available. They are applied to the skin.
Wrist sprains usually occur from accidents that cannot be prevented. However, wearing protective wrist guards when in-line skating will help prevent wrist sprains caused by falling while skating.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American College of Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Abraham MK, Scott S. The emergent evaluation and treatment of hand and wrist injuries. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2010 Nov;28(4):789-809.
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Parmelee-Peters K, Eathorne SW. The wrist: common injuries and management. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. 2006 March 32(1).
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Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Sprains_Strains/default.asp. Updated July 2012. Accessed March 12, 2013.
Wrist sprains. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00023. Updated September 2010. Accessed March 13, 2013.
10/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 3/12/2013