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:
- Pain or soreness
- Problems moving the wrist
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Questions will also be asked about how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Topical NSAIDs. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/topical-nsaids.
- Wrist sprains. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/wrist-sprains.
- Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
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