Wrist sprain

Back to Patient education: hand & wrist

What is a wrist sprain?

A wrist sprain is a common injury to one of the ligaments in the wrist. Sprains range from mild, in which the ligament is stretched but not torn; to moderate, in which the ligament is partially torn; to severe, in which the ligament is completely torn from the bone.

Even if your symptoms are mild, it’s important to consult a physician to ensure you receive the proper diagnosis and treatment. If you wait, your condition could worsen and require surgical intervention.

What causes a wrist sprain?

Wrist sprains typically result when the wrist is forcefully bent or twisted beyond its normal range of motion. The most common cause is a fall on an outstretched hand. The injury frequently occurs during athletic activity, but can also result from trauma such as a car accident.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a wrist sprain typically include pain, swelling and instability in the wrist, tenderness and warmth around the injury, bruising or discoloration of the skin, and a popping or tearing sound in the wrist

If your symptoms persist more than one day, it’s important that a physician evaluate your injury.

How is a wrist sprain diagnosed?

In addition to a patient history and physical exam, your doctor may order an X-ray, CT scan or MRI to confirm the diagnosis and rule out more serious problems, such as a fracture.

What is the treatment?

Mild wrist sprains usually respond well to non-surgical treatment including rest, immobilization in a splint, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. More severe sprains, in which the ligament is partially or completely torn, may require surgery to reconnect the ligament to the bone.

Surgical options include:

Following either type of surgery, rehabilitation with a Certified Hand Therapist is recommended to strengthen and stabilize the muscles around the wrist joint, and improve hand dexterity. Specific recovery time varies based on the severity of the sprain and your overall health.