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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

Sprained Wrist: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

The wrist is a joint that incorporates the carpal bones. There are eight carpal bones in the wrist and all these bones are grouped in two rows. Cartilage and ligaments hold the bones of the wrist together.

A wrist sprain occurs if the tight ligaments supporting the wrist go beyond their limits or tears. This occurs when the wrist is twisted or curved, normally because of a drop on the extended side. Wrist sprains are common injuries. Depending on the intensity of the damage to the ligaments, wrist sprain can be mild to severe.

Ligaments are powerful tissues of fibrous tissues which link bones to other bones. The ligaments in the wrist help the bones stabilize and keep the joint tight. There may be different types of wrist sprain. That may be a small tear in the fibers of the ligament or a full tear through the ligament or the bone attachment.

How Wrist Sprains Are Graded?

The sprains are classified according to the degree of ligament damage

Grade 1 Sprain (Mild)

The ligaments are stretched, but not torn. In this case, minor damage to the ligaments happens.

Grade 2 Sprains (Moderate)

The ligaments are partly broken in grade 2 sprains which can cause functional damage.

Grade 3 Sprains (Severe)

The ligament is completely broken or the ligament is removed from the bone. Extreme seamlessness and lack of function was observed in grade 3. Such injuries need immediate treatment or surgical treatment. It will take a little chip of bone with it, as the ligament breaks away from the bone. This is known as a fracturing of avulsion.

What Causes Wrist Sprain?

A Wrist sprains are most commonly affected by a fall on an outstretched hand. Wrist sprains usually happen during sports and outdoor recreation and sometimes during everyday activities.

Wrist sprains are common during snowfall or ice storms. In this weather condition, the ground is slippery and the chance of a slip is high. The highest proportion of wrist injuries are seen in service industries, manufacturing, construction laborers, carpenters, etc.

Who Are Prone To Wrist Sprain?

Sprained Wrist Causes

Basketball players, Credits: canva

Anyone that slips or is hit on the wrist may have wrist sprains. Yet wrist sprain is more frequent in

  1. Basketball players

  2. Weightlifting

  3. Ice hockey

  4. Wrestling

  5. Judo

  6. Baseball players

  7. Gymnasts

  8. Divers

  9. Skiers

  10. Skaters

  11. Skateboarders

  12. Inline skaters

Around 3% to 9% of injuries related to sports include hand or wrist injuries.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Sprained Wrist?

The signs and symptoms of a sprained wrist include

  1. Pain

  2. Swelling

  3. Bruising

  4. Tenderness and warmth around the injury

  5. A feeling of popping or tearing inside the wrist

  6. Weakness

  7. Loss of motion

Modern wrist injuries with low swelling may include a broken ligament and surgery could be necessary to prevent long lasting complications. An occult fracture may often also be mistaken as a serious to mild sprain. Untreated sprains should not be adequately healed if not treated correctly and sufficiently.

A mild wrist injury that causes persistent wrist pain and that does not improve quickly needs to be evaluated properly. A proper diagnosis and care are needed to prevent long-term complications such as chronic pain, rigidity and arthritis.

How Wrist Sprains Are Diagnosed?

Physical Examination

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and the history of recent hand and wrist injuries. A doctor evaluates if the patient has any numbness in the hand or any sorts of pain in any other locations.

Then a careful examination of the wrist is done to check how it moves and whether it hurts. A complete hand examination is done to check for any other injuries.

Imaging Tests

To confirm the diagnosis, imaging tests are performed.

Sprained Wrist Diagnosis

MRI examination, Credits: canva


X-ray imaging will show bone fractures and wrist bones alignment. Although x-ray will not show the ligaments, it can be used to rule out other diagnoses.

Additional imagery tests, such as an MRI scan, a CT scan, or arthrogram may be performed. A special dye is applied to the wrist in an arthrogram. In an imaging scan, the joints and the ligaments become clearer.

In some cases, arthroscopy is performed which is a minimally invasive procedure. A small camera is placed in the wrist in this process.

Treatment of Wrist Sprain

Based on the seriousness of the condition, the care choices for the handle sprain are different.

How to Wrap a Sprained Wrist


A woman wrapping a sprained wrist, Credits: canva

You will have to wrap your wrist to deal with the swollenness’ and to speed up the recovery if you hurt it in a fall or crash. A small wrist sprain may be managed with a wrapping with a compression, but look for medical treatment if you have serious pain in your wrist.

Here are the steps for wrapping your wrist:

  1. Wrap your wrist bandage once, starting on the pinky side of the hand and facing down the hand.

  2. Pull the bandage on the thumb side of the palm once and then wrap it over.

  3. Cross the bandage to your wrist and wrap it around your wrist again.

  4. Turn your wrap on and over the palm to the rosy side of your hand.

  5. Wrap the wrist back.

  6. To secure the wrist, use the rest of the wrap. Just ensure that the wrist isn’t too tightly wrapped. You should strip the bandage and rewrap if your fingers tend to peel or go numb.

Home Care

The RICE protocol involves the procedure for a minor wrist sprain:

  1. Rest: rest at least 48 hours for your wrist.

  2. Ice: To decrease the swelling, apply ice immediately after the injury. Do not put ice on your skin directly. Put the cold packs for two to three minutes for 4 hours about 2 to 3 days.

  3. Compression: To reduce swelling, wear an elastic compression bandage.

  4. Elevation. Rest with your wrist higher than your heart as much as possible.

Non-steroids (NSAIDs) such as Aspirina (aspirin) or ibuprofen are used to relieve inflammation and swelling. These drugs may have side effects like ulcers and bleeding and need to be taken only on a prescription. When the pain lasts for more than 48 hours, it is recommended to see a doctor.

Non-Surgical Options

Wrist Treatment

A doctor treating a patient, Credits: canva

Moderate sprains may require immobilization with a wrist splint or brace for one week or more. Using a splint or brace may help avoid repetitive joint movement and sudden or unintentional use of the wrist to worsen the sprain. Because immobility can cause discomfort in your wrist, it is advised that these stretching exercises help you recover maximum mobility.

Surgical Treatment

In case of severe sprains, where a fully torn ligament needs to be repaired, surgery needs to be done. A wrist and hand surgeon will take care of the procedure. Surgery means reconnecting the ligament to the bone or reconstructing the injured ligament using a tendon grease.

Surgery is usually followed by a rehabilitation which includes exercises to strengthen the wrist to restore and regain the range of motions. TThe duration of the healing depends on the sprain intensity. For a complete recovery, a period of 6 to 12 months is required.

Physical Therapy

how to treat a sprained wrist

Physiotherapy, Credits: canva

Exercises in physical therapy contribute to strength growth, endurance improvement and practical wrist movements. Exercises must be carried out under tolerated limits. Depending on the condition, a certified physical therapist may help you develop a recovery schedule for wrist.

How Long It Takes To Recover From A Wrist Sprain?

The recovery time may depend on the grade of a wrist sprain. Full healing time normally depends on the seriousness of the sprain, medication choice, patient age, pre-existing illnesses and post-treatment therapy exercises.

Mild injuries usually require two to ten weeks to heal. The healing process usually depends on the grade of the sprain and how properly it was managed. A grade 1 sprain may require 2 to 4 weeks time to recover and grade 3 sprains may take 3 to 6 months time for a full recovery.

A therapist may assist patients who have undergone surgery to achieve a complete recovery. Stretching and strengthening exercises can decrease muscle stiffness and increase the range of motion of the wrist joint are often prescribed for recovering patients.

Before returning to the old physical exercise, it is necessary to ensure the following:

  1. You don’t feel pain in your wrist when it is at rest

  2. You can grip and move objects like a bat or a racket without pain.

  3. Your injured wrist, the arms, and the hands are as strong as the uninjured one.

  4. If you rush to use your wrist before it heals, it may result in permanent damage.

Prevention of a Wrist Sprain


Wrist guards, Credits: canva

As wrist sprains happen during a fall, be careful when walking on wet or slippery surfaces. Also, sprains happen during sports like skating, skateboarding, and skiing.

When you plan to participate in such activities, wear wrist guards or protective tape. This supports your wrist and prevents you from bending too far if you slip.

Inline skaters and snowboarders can secure their wrists using wrist guards. Divers of the platform should wear protective bandage, wrist splints or wraps that limit wrist extension. Choose ski poles that have low profile grip and finger-grooves to avoid handle sprains linked to skiing. Grip ski poles during a crash without braces and falling poles.

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