What is a wrist sprain?
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is the band of tissue that connects bone to bone, and because the wrist is one of the most highly active joints in the body, sprains are very common there. Generally, sprains refer to instances in which the ligament is stretched, but it is often also torn, which presents a more difficult problem.
What causes wrist sprains?
The most common cause of wrist sprains is a fall onto an outstretched hand, either forward or backwards. This is not the only cause, however, as any force applied to the wrist in a direction it doesn’t want to go will put stress on the ligaments and the joint, as typified by a violent twisting of the wrist. More often than not, sprains of the wrists are the result of some type of athletic activity.
What are symptoms of a wrist sprain?
Wrist sprains typically present with pain, inflammation, abnormal warmth of the area, discoloration, and trouble moving the joint. All of these symptoms are not necessarily present at once, but at least a few of them will be, and are good indicators of a sprain.
How to diagnose a wrist sprain
A history of the injury is important in assisting the doctor in properly diagnosing the condition, as the type of injury can give indicators as to how the wrist is damaged, and in what way it would be best to fix it. Fractures are also common from the same types of injuries as a wrist sprain, so the doctor will want to check for broken bones and rule them out, should they not be there. X-rays, MRI and CT scans can assist the doctor in determining the severity of the sprain, whether or not the ligaments have been torn, and how severely. An MRI with an arthrogram, in which contrast liquid is injected into the injured joint, will show where the ligaments have been torn, pinpointing the area that needs attention. These interior exams are important, because sometimes even a very severe sprain, in which the whole ligament is completely severed, may only exhibit a small amount of swelling externally, misleading both you and the initial physical exam.
Non-surgical treatment of a wrist sprain
Generally, mild sprains do not require medical attention, and can be taken care of at home, with rest, ice, compression bandages, and elevating the injury above the heart, to reduce blood flow. Over the counter pain medications may also help if the pain is too much. Moderate sprains should be immobilized in a splint for at least 7 days.
Surgical treatment of a wrist sprain
If one or more ligaments in the wrist are torn or severed, surgery will be necessary to repair the damage. Generally, it is enough to suture the ligaments, but it may be that your injury is more severe, and requires pins and/or screws, for instance, if the ligament has been pulled away from the bone (link to wrist cartilage and ligament tears article)
How can Dr. Knight help you with wrist sprains?
While mostly mild, and seldom requiring surgery to fix, wrist sprains can be tricky, and may often have caused much more damage than is apparent. It is important for them to be treated as soon and as comprehensively as possible to avoid any lasting, chronic pain or malformation of the joint. Dr. Knight is one of the premier national wrist specialists with extensive experience in advanced wrist arthroscopy.
Wrist Sprain Animation Video
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