Wrist Sprain

What is Wrist Sprain?

The wrist is composed of eight floating bones called carpals. These bones are connected to one another by strong, flexible bands of connective tissue known as ligaments. A sprained wrist occurs when any of the ligaments in the wrist are injured. Wrist Sprains are quite common and can range in severity. Based on the degree of injury to the ligament, a wrist sprain will be categorized as either Grade 1 for mild sprains (overly stretched), Grade 2 for moderate sprains (partially torn), or Grade 3 severe sprains (fully torn ligament).

What causes Wrist Sprain?

Athletes are particularly prone to Wrist Sprain. Gymnastics, skiing, football and figure skating are just a few of the sports in which this type of injury is common. Wrist Sprains are most frequently caused by a fall on an outstretched hand. This type of fall is also common in icy weather. Additionally, any activity that results in sudden, forceful impact to the wrist can place undue stress on the ligaments leading to over-stretching and/or tearing.

What are the symptoms of Wrist Sprain?

Symptoms can vary based on severity and location of injury. Pain is common at the time of injury and can persist with movement. Swelling and bruising are also common. Some report a tearing or popping sensation inside the wrist. There may be some loss of function in the affected wrist.

It is important to have a doctor evaluate wrist injuries. In some cases what seems like a mild injury may actually require surgery to avoid long-lasting pain and stiffness. Proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial to prevent permanent damage.

How is Wrist Sprain diagnosed?

A complete medical history along with a review of occupational and recreational hazards is the first step in diagnosis. The physician will perform a through physical examination of the affected wrist, hand and arm. Imaging studies such as x-rays, CT, and/or MRI will be ordered to determine the location and severity of the injury. X-rays will reveal whether or not there are any associated fractures. MRI, CT, and Arthogram allow the physician to visualize the ligament and the full extent of the damage.

How is Wrist Sprain treated?


All Wrist Sprains should be evaluated by a qualified physician since even severe Grade 3 sprains may present with only minor symptoms. Mild Grade 1 sprains are usually treated at home. The wrist should be rested for at least 48 hours. Cold packs can be applied for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day to help relieve swelling. Compression with an elastic bandage and elevating the extremity above the level of the heart can also provide relief. Additionally, over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen may be helpful.

Moderate Wrist Sprains will require a longer healing time. These sprains may need to be immobilized in a splint for a week or more. Immobilization can cause stiffness in the joint so special stretching exercises will be recommended to regain fully mobility.


Severe sprains in which one or more ligaments are completely torn will likely require surgical repair. The ligament(s) must be reconnected to the bone to restore proper function and joint stability. After a period of immobilization, rehabilitation begins. Wrist therapy will strengthen and return flexibility to the wrist. While the ligament may heal within 6 to 8 weeks, full recovery may take several months depending on severity. Cartilage and Ligament Tears of the Wrist

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.


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HandAndWristInstitute.com does not offer medical advice. The information presented here is offered for informational purposes only. Read Disclaimer