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Wrist Sprain

All About Sprained Wrist Injuries


Updated May 30, 2014

Wrist injuries are common problems, and they can be quite an annoyance given how dependent we are on functional wrists and hands. When you begin to fall, your natural instinct is to put your hands out to catch or break your fall. In doing so, the wrist is often suddenly, and forcefully, torqued or twisted. This can cause a common injury called a wrist sprain.

When a wrist sprain injury occurs, the ligaments of the wrist are stretched beyond their normal limits. A ligament is tough, fibrous tissue that controls the motion around a joint. The ligaments around the wrist joint help to stabilize the position of the hand and allow controlled motions.

Wrist sprains are graded according to the severity of the injury:

  • Grade I: Mild injury, the ligaments are stretched, but no significant tearing has occurred.

  • Grade II: Moderate injury, the ligaments may be partially torn.

  • Grade III: Severe wrist sprain, the ligaments are completely torn, and there may be instability of the joint.

Causes of Sprained Wrists

Wrist sprains are common injuries, especially in certain groups of people. Wrist sprains tend to occur after falls. In icy weather, wrist sprains are common as people fall to the sidewalk after slipping. Sporting activities are also common causes of wrist sprains. Sports in which wrist sprains commonly occur include football, basketball, skiing, snowboarding, rollerblading, and many other sports.

Some common symptoms of a wrist sprain include:

  • Pain with movement of the wrist

  • Swelling around the wrist joint

  • Bruising or discoloration of the skin

  • Burning or tingling sensations around the wrist
The diagnosis of a wrist sprain is made by knowing how the injury occurred, and looking at the physical examination findings. There are other wrist problems that can have similar symptoms to a sprain, including wrist tendonitis and a wrist fracture or scaphoid fracture.

Your doctor will obtain an x-ray to ensure you have not broken the bones around the joint. In some cases a MRI can be helpful. This may be done if the diagnosis is unclear or if the symptoms do not resolve as expected.

Treatment of Wrist Sprains

Most individuals with wrist sprains find some simple treatments lead to relief of painful symptoms. Most people can find relief with 'R.I.C.E. treatment, consisting of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It is rare for a wrist sprain to require any type of surgery.
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