What is a Wrist Sprain?

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  • Written By: Archana Khambekar
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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A wrist sprain is an injury caused to the wrist joint when the ligaments surrounding it are overstretched or torn. The wrist could get sprained in a fall, when playing a sport, or during a stressful motion of the hand, for instance. Pain, bruising, tenderness, or swelling in the wrist area are among the symptoms experienced. The commonly suggested measures for a mild sprain include rest, a compression bandage, an ice pack, and holding the wrist in a raised position. Additional treatment, such as a cast and exercises for the wrist, may be required in some cases.

Generally a doctor can diagnose a wrist sprain by examining the wrist and the arm, determining how the hand was injured, and appraising the symptoms. Sometimes the doctor may ask for an x-ray or a magnetic resonance image (MRI) to assess the injury. These tests can help ascertain the extent of tear of the ligament and detect any broken bones around the wrist.


A wrist sprain is considered mild if the ligaments are pulled, but not majorly damaged; this type of injury is referred to as grade I sprain. The RICE method, which denotes Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, is the treatment commonly suggested for a mild sprain. The treatment involves limiting activities that could be painful to the wrist for a period of 48 hours following the injury, and applying ice to the sprained wrist for 20 minutes every few hours. Wrapping a compression bandage, and positioning the wrist a little higher than the heart are among the measures recommended to ease the swelling. An over-the-counter pain medication may be taken to relieve the discomfort.

A moderate, or grade II, sprain may cause some tearing of wrist ligaments and slightly affect the stability of the joint. In an acute, or grade III, wrist sprain, the ligament could get torn off and a tiny piece of the bone may break. The functioning and movement of the joint could be considerably impacted. On evaluating the sprain, the doctor may advise using a cast for some days. A course of exercises that improve flexibility and strength may be prescribed to rehabilitate the wrist. Surgery may be necessary if there is a major ligament tear.

The time taken for a wrist sprain to get better depends on the degree of the injury. The wrist could get better within a week or two, if the injury is relatively minor. The recovery period could be up to 10 weeks if the wrist joint suffers more damage. Doctors often advise people to begin using their wrist gradually after it has mended and movement doesn’t cause pain.

Taking certain precautions can reduce the incidence of a wrist sprain. One of the measures is being cautious when walking on an icy path or irregular road to prevent a fall. Putting on a wrist guard when playing a sport such as baseball, basketball, tennis, skating, or skiing could keep the hand from spraining.



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