Our wrists are delicate and can get injured easily if we're not careful. Even everyday activities like cleaning, cooking or sleeping on our sides can cause damage to our wrists over time. While accidents and falls can also lead to sprained wrists, it's important to be mindful of how we use our wrists in our daily lives to prevent any unnecessary strain or injury.
A sprained wrist happens when the ligaments that connect the bones in your wrist get stretched or torn. Ligaments are like strong rubber bands that hold your bones together. When they get hurt, it's called a sprain.
Sprains come in different degrees of severity, ranging from mild to severe. A mild sprain can cause discomfort and swelling, while a severe one can lead to bruising, numbness, and weakness.
Most people who have sprained their ankle may not know that the injury usually occurs in a specific ligament called the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL). This ligament connects the largest bone in the foot (talus bone) to the smaller bone in the lower leg (fibula bone) on the outer side. When people accidentally turn their foot inwards or outwards, the ATFL gets stretched or torn causing a sprain.
Sometimes, our wrist can get hurt due to a strain or a twist in the ligaments that connect the small bones in our wrist. There are different types of ligaments that can get affected, such as the scapholunate and the lunotriquetral ligaments.
If you're not sure whether to treat the pain yourself or see a doctor, keep reading!
What is a Sprained Wrist?
Imagine what the world would be like if our hands and arms weren't as capable as they are now. We don't know, but it isn't very good to think about! It's important to remember, however, that accidents do happen, and sometimes, paying attention to injuries or discomfort that seems out of the ordinary is necessary.
For example, a sprained wrist is defined as an injury when one or more of the wrist's ligaments (the tissues connecting two bones) are damaged, either directly by an injury or indirectly from stretching, tearing, or overuse.
Is My Wrist Sprained?
A sprained wrist is a common sports injury that occurs when you overstretch or wrench your wrist. A lot of activity in this joint means you'll need to spend more time warming up your muscles and joints – it can take as little as ten minutes!
If your pain doesn't seem to disappear, moderate to severe symptoms warrant visiting a doctor's office. However, remember that minor sprains can heal independently with some rest (Cold therapy optional).
Sprained Wrist Grades
The severity of injuries can vary significantly. On one end of the spectrum, there are minor incidents, and on the other end are conditions that may leave you unable to move independently. Depending on its grade, a wrist sprain is defined by symptoms that can serve as warning signs that your body is no longer functioning properly.
A wrist mildly rubbed. Negligible pain with no swelling. Minor disruptions to ligaments are evident but not fundamental.
A mildly sprained wrist with no swelling and minor pain. No significant damage to the ligament is present.
A complete tear in a ligament results in acute pain and instability.
A doctor will be able to identify the level of your injury after completing a thorough assessment.
Common Causes of a Sprained Wrist
A sprained wrist is normally caused by falling on an outstretched hand. When a person has an instinct to break their fall, the arms and hands are often the first lines of defense against gravity.
A sudden blow to your palm or wearing your hand with too much pressure can cause a sprain to the soft tissues in the hand (which are called flexors), wrist, or forearm. Overuse of those flexors can cause any of these factors vulnerable to injury.
Other common household activities or sports can also cause wrist sprains. These include:
- Lifting a heavy object
- Repetitions with sports such as golf
- Sleeping awkwardly on the hand and wrist
- Excessive gripping (i.e., a steering wheel)
- Cooking, particularly chopping and other repetitive motions
- Improper form with exercise
Sprained Wrist Symptoms
Understanding your wrist sprain diagnosis and moving forward with treatment requires a detailed understanding of all the associated symptoms. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are associated with other types of wrist injuries, so you may need medical advice if your symptoms are severe or limiting your daily activities.
- A popping sound at the time of injury
- Localized tenderness
- Instability of the wrist
What Does a Sprained Wrist Look Like?
Wrist sprains and fractures can be tough to decipher. If symptoms are mild, you can begin self-treatment, but if they do not improve after a week or two, it's best to seek medical attention because the longer you wait, the more likely irreversible damage could occur.
Also, if your injury is more severe, it's important to seek care regardless of whether the problem stems from a sprain or fracture because, in some instances, wrist fractures may not even be considered until the underlying wrist sprain has healed!
Sprained Wrist vs. Broken Wrist
Many patients ask, "Is my wrist broken or sprained?" Typically, the two conditions need to be clarified. An X-ray is necessary for sure, but there is one reliable sign that can help with knowing if a wrist is broken or sprained.
A patient with a broken bone typically reports a constant ache in their wrist, while someone with a sprain – like mentioned above – tends to feel worse when the joint is moved.
Sprained Wrists and Arthritis
What do sprained wrists feel like as opposed to arthritis? Sprained wrists are chronic neck this condition whose symptoms can resemble sprains like pronounced tearing, swelling, and pain.
Usually, people sprain an ache or even a specific area of their wrist due to an acute force applied to the hand. Tell your doctor if your long-term pain affects your sprained wrist symptoms.
The biggest difference is that sprains are occasional repetitive injuries, whereas arthritis is sudden onset, usually occurring with age.
How Long Does a Sprained Wrist Take to Heal?
How long does a sprained wrist last? That is the first question patients ask after diagnosis. Most sprained wrist injuries resolve in two to three weeks.
Severe sprains that involve a torn ligament could take weeks or months. Plus, if surgery is required to restore stability, you can expect at least three months of recovery.
Building your recovery program will help ensure that you will return to doing the things you love as soon as possible. Your customized program should include resting and managing your swelling immediately with a cold therapy pack and then using a herbal heating pad to begin healing.
Exercise for your joints is also very important because it will help expedite the recovery time! Being physically active is critical after an injury, even if it's something small like a sprain.
The pressure from exercising on your sore joint will cause it to heal faster. While doing light workouts, it's imperative to maintain a healthy diet so as not to hinder recovery.
This is why doctors suggest eating lean protein such as chicken, fish, and vegetarian protein sources while also including foods high in vitamin C and fresh leafy vegetables to help recover or avoid getting injured again!
If you think your sprained wrist pain is worsening with time, do not wait - contact your doctor and ask for a regular check-up. Your sprain may have been wrongly diagnosed, or you might be receiving the wrong treatment.
Treatment for a Sprained Wrist Injury
The treatment for a sprained wrist depends on the severity of the injury. Mild sprains may heal independently with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). More severe sprains may require physical therapy or surgery.
Rest: Resting the wrist is important to allow the ligaments to heal. Please avoid using the wrist for activities that put stress on it.
Cold therapy: Applying a Sacksythyme Cold therapy pack to the wrist can help reduce pain and swelling. Apply cold pack for 20 minutes, several times a day.
Compression: Wrapping the wrist with an elastic bandage can help to reduce swelling.
Elevation: Elevating the wrist above the heart can also help to reduce swelling.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help to improve the range of motion and strength in the wrist.
Surgery: Surgery may be necessary for severe sprains that do not improve with other treatments.
The prognosis for a sprained wrist is usually good. Most sprains heal within a few weeks. However, following the doctor's instructions carefully is important to prevent further injury.
Preventing Sprained Wrist Injury
Here are some things you can do to prevent a sprained wrist:
- Warm up before exercising. Warming up helps to prepare your muscles and ligaments for activity.
- Wear supportive shoes. Supportive shoes can help to protect your ankles and wrists from injury.
- Be careful when exercising. Avoid activities that stress your wrists, such as playing basketball or volleyball.
- Stretch regularly. Stretching can help to keep your muscles and ligaments flexible and reduce your risk of injury.
Following these tips can help prevent a sprained wrist and keep your wrists healthy.
Recovering From a Sprained Wrist
Wrist injuries can be very painful, sometimes so bad that it seems like you will never be able to use your hand normally again. A sprained wrist is caused when a person overextends the wrist beyond its normal range of motion and then re-injures the ligaments of the wrist. Start by resting for several days and taking over-the-counter NSAIDs for pain and swelling if needed.
Knowing that you have caused an injury to your wrist, it's best to seek treatment immediately so as not to over-stress the area and worsen symptoms. Seeking the simplest treatment solution should help make a recovery relatively straightforward. With prompt treatment, you'll be playing golf and driving again shortly!