The wrist, just like any part of the human body, can be damaged if you are careless – even if you've been careful your whole life. Yes, some bad falls and accidents can result in sprained wrists, but so can routine tasks around the house, or even sleeping on your sides and causing pressure to build up on one side. If you're unsure about whether to see a doctor or manage the pain at home by yourself with over-the-counter medication and lifestyle changes, keep reading!
What is a Sprained Wrist?
Imagine what the world would be like if our hands and arms weren't as capable at they are now. We don't know, but it's awful to think about! It's important to remember however that accident do happen and sometimes it's necessary to pay attention to injuries or discomfort that seems out of the ordinary. For example, a sprained wrist is defined as an injury that occurs when one or more of the wrist's ligaments (the tissues connecting two bones) are damaged, due 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 go away, moderate to severe symptoms warrant a visit to a doctor’s office. Keep in mind, however, that minor sprains can heal on their own with some rest (Cold therapy optional).
Sprained Wrist Grades
The severity of injuries can range 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 on your own. A wrist sprain, depending on its grade, 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 his or her 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 to be vulnerable to injury.
Wrist sprains can also be caused by any number of other common household activities or sports. 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 also associated with other types of wrist injuries as well 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, then 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 start by asking, "Is my wrist broken or sprained?" Typically, the two conditions are easily confused. An X-ray is necessary to know for sure, but there is one reliable sign that can help with knowing how to tell if a wrist is broken or sprained. A patient who has a broken bone will typically report a constant ache in their wrist while someone with a sprain – which likes mentioned above – tends to feel worse when the joint is being 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. If you think your long-term discomfort is contributing to your sprained wrist symptoms, tell your physician. 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 3 months of recovery.
Building your recovery program will help to ensure that you will be back to doing the things you love as soon as possible. Your customized program should include resting and managing your swelling right away with cold therapy pack and then using a herbal heating pad so that the healing process can begin. It's also very important to exercise for your joint because this 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 focusing on eating lean protein such as chicken, fish, and vegetarian sources of protein while also including foods high in vitamin C as well as fresh leafy vegetables to help recover or avoid getting injured again!
If you think your sprained wrist pain is getting worse 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.
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 recovery relatively straightforward in time. With prompt treatment, you'll be playing golf and driving again shortly!