A sprain is an injury to the ligaments around a joint. Ligaments are strong, flexible fibers that hold bones together.
When you sprain your wrist, you have pulled or torn one or more of the ligaments in your wrist joint. This can happen from landing on your hand wrong when you fall down.
Wrist sprains can be mild to severe. They are ranked by how severe the ligament is pulled or torn away from the bone.
Chronic wrist sprains from poorly treated ligament injuries in the past can lead to weakening of the bones and ligaments in the wrist. This can lead to arthritis if not recognized.
Symptoms such as pain, swelling, bruising and loss of strength or stability are common with mild (grade 1) to moderate (grade 2) wrist sprains.
In mild injuries, stiffness is normal once the ligament begins to heal, but this can improve with some light stretching.
Severe (grade 3) wrist sprains may need to be looked at by a hand surgeon. They may need to take pictures called x-Rays of your wrist to get a better look. The more severe injuries may require surgery to fix.
Chronic sprains should be treated with splinting, pain medicine and anti-inflammatory medicine. Chronic sprains may need steroid injections and possible surgery.
Follow these steps for the first few days or weeks after your injury:
Make sure to rest and keep your wrist immobile as much as you can. Use a compression wrap or splint to keep swelling down and take pain medicine if necessary.
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
Here are a few exercises you can follow once your wrist beings to feel better. To build strength, try the ball drill:
To increase flexibility and movement follow these steps:
Follow up with your doctor 1 - 2 weeks after your injury. Based on your injury, your doctor may want to see you more than one time.
For chronic wrist sprains, you may want to talk to your doctor about what activity is causing you to re-injure your wrist and what you can do to prevent any further injury.
Call the doctor if you have:
Scapho-lunate ligament sprain
Ingari JV. Wrist and hand. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2009:chap 20.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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