Wrist sprains

Overview

A wrist sprain is an injury to the capsule and ligaments surrounding the wrist joint. A sprain is typically caused by a traumatic injury to the wrist, such as a fall on an outstretched hand, but can also be caused by repetitive use of the wrist such as seen in athletes who play racket sports or people who place a lot of stress through the wrist joint (boxers, gymnasts, weightlifters).  

A wrist sprain is often characterized by pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness of the wrist joint. The pain occurs in the location of the injury and is often felt in multiple locations around the joint. It typically hurts when you try to move the wrist, grasp objects (especially heavy objects), or with twisting motions.

You should see a doctor if your pain started after a fall or other traumatic event, if the joint is hot or swollen, if you have trouble moving the wrist, or if your pain persists after stopping the aggravating activities. X-rays may be obtained to rule out a fracture, joint instability, or arthritis of the wrist. If the injury involves the tendons that cross the wrist joint or structures deep within the joint, further imaging may be needed such as a magnetic resonance image (MRI) or ultrasound.

Initial treatments may include rest, immobilizing the joint with a wrist splint, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications. Often, physical therapy is helpful to assist with improving range of motion and strengthening of the muscles/tendons that cross the wrist joint. The medical team can also assist with identifying activities, improper form or equipment, or training errors that contributed to the injury– and guiding safe return to activity. On occasion, injections may be considered. Rarely is surgery necessary.

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