A wrist sprain occurs when ligaments that support the wrist and connect the bones to each other are stretched or torn. This often happens when an outstretched hand is used to break a fall. Individuals suffering from a wrist sprain may experience pain and swelling around the wrist. The area may be sensitive and warm, with visible redness or bruising. Those suffering from a wrist sprain have limited ability to move the wrist.
An x-ray is generally taken to ensure that no bones are broken. While not frequently performed for this type of injury, occasionally a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be done in order to determine if a more severe ligament injury exists.
Those individuals involved in sports, as well as those experiencing poor coordination, balance, flexibility and strength in muscles and ligaments, are at greater risk for wrist sprains.
Treatment options for wrist sprains are generally non-invasive and may include a period of rest from rigorous hand activities. Cold compression is used to reduce pain and swelling – and elevation helps drain fluid and reduce swelling. Inflammation reducing medication such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin, may also be prescribed.
Occasionally a brace or cast may be placed on the wrist to ensure immobilization. Surgery, though rare in such cases, is sometimes necessary to repair a ligament that has completely torn – or address an associated fracture.
Following a period of rest, patients then begin a series of exercises, in order to restore flexibility, range of motion and wrist strength. While some of the exercises focus on strengthening all muscles surrounding the area of vulnerability, others are developed specific to the patient’s lifestyle and can fit easily into daily activities.