A sprain refers to an injury to a ligament. Ligaments are bands of tough elastic tissue surrounding the joints. They play an important role in the musculoskeletal system. They provide joint support and connect one bone to another.
What is a Wrist Sprain?
A wrist sprain is a common injury. There are many ligaments in the wrist that can get stretched or torn especially when the wrist is bent forcefully, such as in a case of a fall on an outstretched hand.
Wrist Sprain Categories
Wrist sprains can be mild to severe, depending on the degree of injury to the ligaments.
Grade 1 sprains are considered mild sprains. In this form of wrist injury, the ligaments are stretched but are not torn.
Grade 2 sprains are moderate sprains. They are characterized by partial tearing of the ligaments. When you have a grade 2 sprain, you may suffer some loss of function.
Grade 3 sprains are severe sprains. This category of wrist sprain requires immediate medical attention as this involves a complete tear of the ligament.
Falls are the most common causes of a wrist sprain. You can also suffer from a sprained wrist if you get hit in the wrist or when extreme pressure or twisting is applied to your wrist.
Athletes are at higher risk of suffering from a wrist sprain. This injury is more common among divers, gymnasts, skateboarders, skiers, skaters, and basketball and baseball players.
Signs and Symptoms of Sprained Wrist
The signs and symptoms of a sprained wrist could vary, depending on the extent of the injury. The most common signs and symptoms of a sprained wrist include:
- Swelling in the wrist
- Tenderness and warmth at the site of injury
- Bruising or skin discoloration around the wrist
- Feeling of popping or tearing in the wrist
When to See a Doctor
Most sprains can be managed at home but there are cases that require professional medical care. These are cases that involved rapid swelling or bruising at the injured site, loss of feeling in the injured area, inability to move the affected site, repeated injury to the same area, and the lack of improvement with home remedies.
When you see a doctor, he/she will more likely begin with your medical history. He/she will ask you about how the injury happened and if there’s a history of hand or wrist injury.
Aside from a health history check, your doctor will also do a thorough physical exam. This is to make sure that there are no other injuries in the area.
To determine whether the wrist is sprained and to find out the extent of injury, your doctor may order imaging and other tests such as an X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), arthrography, and arthroscopy.
Managing a Sprained Wrist
Mild wrist sprains can be easily managed at home. The symptoms can be alleviated with rest, application of cold compress for 20 minutes at a time, and elevation of the affected site (it should be elevated above the level of the heart).
Moderate wrist sprains need to be immobilized with the use of a splint. Wearing of the wrist splint for weeks can cause stiffness but doing some gentle, stretching exercises can help in regaining mobility.
For severe wrist sprains, surgery is usually recommended. This is to repair the fully-torn ligament.
There is a period of rehabilitation after surgery to help restore the function and motion of the wrist. Depending on the extent of the injury, rehabilitation may take months to a year.