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
Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


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.


Problems may be:

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


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 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.


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

American College of Sports Medicine

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Canadian Orthopaedic Association

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation


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: Accessed October 9, 2020.

Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases—National Institutes of Health website. Available at: Accessed October 9, 2020.

Topical NSAIDs. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed October 9, 2020.

Wrist sprains. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed October 9, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 6/8/2021