Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones to each other. A wrist sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the wrist.
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Trauma causes a wrist sprain. Falling on an outstretched hand with your wrist stretched causes this to happen. It is the most common cause. There are other ways it can happen.
A wrist sprain may cause:
- Pain or soreness
- Problems moving your wrist
It can be hard to tell a wrist sprain from a fracture or dislocation of one of the small wrist bones. See your doctor if your pain does not get better.
You will be asked about your symptoms and how you hurt your wrist. An exam of your wrist will be done.
Pictures of your wrist may be taken. This can be done with:
Wrist sprains are graded from 1 to 3:
- Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of ligament
- Grade 2—Partial tearing of ligament
- Grade 3—Complete tearing of ligament
Your wrist will need time to heal. Do not do things that cause pain or put extra stress on your wrist.
Ice may help reduce swelling and pain in the first few days after the injury.
Compression can reduce swelling. Use an elastic bandage around the wrist.
Elevation can also help reduce swelling. Raise the arm higher than the heart. A couple of days of elevation might be advised for severe strains.
Your doctor may advise over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen.
Note: Aspirin is not advised for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Support may be needed to protect, support, and keep the wrist in line while it heals. This may include:
- A brace—A brace may need to be worn to keep the wrist still as it heals.
- A cast—A cast may be needed for 2-3 weeks in cases of severe sprain.
- Rehabilitation exercises—Exercises to strengthen muscles and range of motion may be advised by a doctor or physical therapist.
- Surgery—Surgery is rarely needed. However, it may be needed to repair a ligament that is torn completely.
Wrist sprains may not always be preventable. Wear proper padding and safety gear when you take part in sports or activities.
American College of Sports Medicine http://www.acsm.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
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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. Updated January 30, 2015. Accessed June 11, 2018.
Wrist sprains. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00023. Updated April 2018. Accessed June 11, 2018.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
- Review Date: 05/2018
- Update Date: 06/22/2015