A wrist sprain is a common injury that usually occurs when an outstretched hand is used to break a fall or a hard impact. This stress on the ligaments of the wrist that connect it to the bones of the hand may be overstretched or in more severe cases, partially or completely tear off. A ligament is a tough fibrous connective tissue that provides stability to the wrist joint and thus, explains the loss of function or the limited range of motion of the wrist experienced after injury. The most commonly injured ligament is the ligament that connects the scaphoid bone to the lunate bone, which are the two small bones found in the wrist. This ligament is otherwise known as the scapho-lunate ligament.
A wrist sprain is usually common in athletes such as basketball players, volleyball players, gymnasts and skaters just to name a few. A direct blunt force trauma to the wrist may also cause this injury.
Signs and Symptoms of a Wrist Sprain
A wrist sprain often presents with acute pain with some reports of hearing a popping sound upon the moment of injury. Other signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Swelling and tenderness of the wrist
- Bruising of the skin around the wrist
- Inability to achieve full range of motion
- Pain that is exacerbated when the wrist is moved
Grading of a Wrist Sprain
Grading of a wrist sprain depends on the extent of the injury on the ligaments. The grading is as follows:
- Grade 1 – the ligaments are overstretched with or without minor damages to the fibers of the ligament but are not torn. This often presents with minimal tenderness and swelling.
- Grade 2 sprain – a partial tear in the ligament that present with abnormal laxity of the wrist joint, moderate tenderness and swelling and decreased range of motion
- Grade 3 sprain – a complete tear in the ligament that present with severe tenderness, swelling and loss of function
First Aid Treatment of a Wrist Sprain
Treatment of a wrist sprain will depend on the grading of the injury. A grade 1 sprain or even some grade 2 sprain may resolve with first aid and home remedies. The following can be done:
- Rest – immobilize and rest the injured wrist for at least 2 days. A splint may be used if necessary
- Ice – apply ice compress over the injured area for 2 to 3 times a day for at least 10 minutes
- Compress – a compression bandage can ease the swelling
- Elevate – elevate the injured wrist above the heart while sitting or lying down
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help ease the pain and swelling
- Physical therapy or occupational therapy may also be recommended to restore mobility and to strengthen the wrist
For more severe injuries, such as a grade 3 sprain, surgery may be required in order to repair the detached ligament. This is followed by physical rehabilitation in order to strengthen the wrist and regain full range of motion.
To learn how to properly give first aid on wrist sprain, enroll in First Aid Courses.
A wrist sprain occurs when the ligaments found in the wrist are stretched beyond its limits producing pain, discomfort and in more severe cases, loss of function.