A sprained wrist typically occurs after a fall on an outstretched hand stretches or tears the ligaments of the wrist. Common causes of wrist sprains include the following:
- Accidental falls
- Playing contact sports, or sports with the potential for falls (in-line skating, snowboarding, cycling, soccer, football, baseball, volleyball, etc..)
- Poor balance
- Limited flexibility
- Muscle weakness
- Loose joints
- Failure to use proper protective equipment such as wrist guards.
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling around the wrist after a fall
- Redness, warmth, or bruising around the wrist
- Limited range of motion in the joint
- A dull deep ache in the wrist
If you experience these symptoms after a fall, you should see a physician for an exam and possible tests to look for fractures (some wrist fractures may be misdiagnosed as sprains), or if s/he suspects a ligament has torn completely.
Wrist sprains are graded according to their severity:
Grade 1 – over-stretching / micro-tears of ligaments
Grade 2 - partial ligament tears and mild joint instability
Grade 3 - severe or complete ligament tears and significant joint instability
- Rest. Stop activity and don’t use the injured wrist
- Ice the wrist by applying a cold pack (wrapped in a towel) to the wrist for 15 to 20 minutes, several a day for several days, until swelling subsides.
- Compression. Use an elastic compression bandage to wrap the wrist and limit swelling.
- Elevation. Keep the injured wrist raised (above your heart) for 48 hours to help drain fluid and reduce swelling.
- Medication management can include the use of Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), Acetaminophen (Tylenol), or Aspirin You should always check with your physician before taking any medication.
- Bracing. Your doctor may recommend that you use a brace to immobilize your wrist, especially when playing sports. cast
- Immobilization. If you have a severe sprain, your doctor may recommend a cast for two to three weeks.
- Rehab exercises. You may also see a physical therapist for flexibility, range of motion, and strengthening exercises for the injured wrist.
- Surgery may be needed to repair a ligament that is torn completely, or if there is an associated fracture.
Wearing protective gear, such as wrist guards, may help prevent wrist sprains in some sports. Playing by the rules, and simply being aware of your surrounding may also help prevent falls that lead to wrist sprains.