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.
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A wrist sprain is caused by trauma. The most common way this happens is by falling on an outstretched hand.
Playing sports may raise the risk of a sprain.
Problems may be:
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:
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:
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: 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:
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Accessed October 9, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 6/8/2021