Injuries to the wrist have been a common issue and can be quite an annoyance since we are dependent on properly functioning wrists and hands. During a fall, the natural instinct is to put the hands out to break a fall. As a result, the wrist is often forcefully twisted. This can lead to a common injury called a wrist sprain.
Once a wrist sprain injury occurs, the ligaments of the wrist are stretched beyond their normal limits. The ligament is a fibrous, durable tissue that controls the motion around the joint. The ligaments around the wrist joint help stabilize the position of the hand and facilitate controlled motions.
The wrist sprains are categorized based on the harshness of the injury.
- Grade 1 – Mild injury in which the ligaments are strained out but there is no evident tearing
- Grade 2 – Moderate injury where the ligaments are partly torn
- Grade 3 – Severe wrist pain where the ligaments are fully torn and there is instability of the joint
Causes of wrist sprain
Most cases of wrist sprains occur after falls. During icy weather, wrist sprains are common among those who slip in the floor. Even sporting activities are also common causes of wrist sprains particularly in skiing, basketball, football, snowboarding and rollerblading.
Common symptoms of wrist pain
- Pain with movement of the wrist
- Bruising or discoloration of the skin
- Swelling around the wrist joint
- Tingling or burning sensation around the wrist
The diagnosis of a wrist sprain is done by determining how the injury occurred and physical examination. Remember that there are other wrist issues that have similar symptoms including wrist fractures, wrist tendonitis or scaphoid fractures.
The doctor will request an X-ray to ensure that there are no broken bones around the joint. In most cases, an MRI is also useful. This is performed if the diagnosis is unclear or if the symptoms do not resolve.
Treatment of wrist sprains
In most individuals with wrist sprains, there are simple treatment options that can provide relief to the symptoms. Relief is typically provided by the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Remember that it is rare for a wrist sprain to require surgery.
The initial 24-48 hours after the injury is considered a vital phase and any activity should be avoided. The individual should steadily use the involved wrist as much as tolerated by avoidance of activities that causes pain.
During the first 48 hours after the injury, apply an ice pack over the sprained wrist for 10 minutes every 3-4 hours. Do not allow the application to last for more than 20 minutes at a time since it can cause further damage to the tissues.
Utilize an Ace bandage to wrap the wrist starting at the base of the fingers up to the top of the forearm. Make sure the wrap is not too tight to disrupt with the circulation.
Keep the affected sprain higher than the level of the heart as often as possible. Elevate at night by placing a cushion or pillow under the affected arm.