Definition

A wrist sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the wrist. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones to each other.

Wrist Sprain
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Causes

A wrist sprain is caused by trauma. The most common way this happens is by falling on an outstretched hand.

Risk Factors

Playing sports may raise the risk of a sprain.

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Pain or soreness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Bruising
  • Problems moving the wrist

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how you hurt your wrist. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your wrist.

It can be hard to tell a wrist sprain from a fracture or dislocation of one of the small wrist bones. Pictures of the wrist may be taken. This can be done with:

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the joint involved and how much it is injured. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as rest, ice, a compression bandage, and raising the wrist to ease pain and swelling
  • Over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen
  • A brace or cast to keep the wrist still as it heals
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the wrist and improve movement

Some people may need surgery to repair a ligament that is torn. This is not common.

Prevention

The risk of a wrist sprain may be lowered by:

  • Using the right safety gear and techniques when playing sports
  • Stretching and strengthening the ligaments that support the wrist
RESOURCES:

American College of Sports Medicine
http://www.acsm.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

REFERENCES:

Derry S, Moore RA, et al. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015;(6):CD007402.

Overview of Sprains and Other Soft-Tissue Injuries. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/sprains-and-other-soft-tissue-injuries/overview-of-sprains-and-other-soft-tissue-injuries. Accessed October 9, 2020.

Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases—National Institutes of Health website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sprains-and-strains. Accessed October 9, 2020.

Topical NSAIDs. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/topical-nsaids. Accessed October 9, 2020.

Wrist sprains. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00023. Accessed October 9, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 10/12/2020