Your wrist is made up of the two forearm bones (radius and ulna) and 8 small bones (carpal bones) that attach to the hand bones. The wrist joint is surrounded by a capsule and the bones are connected together by ligaments. When the ligaments become stretched or torn a wrist sprain has occurred.
Wrist joint sprain commonly occurs when you fall on the hand or if the hand is hit with a large force.
Degrees of injury
A wrist joint sprain is graded depending on the degree of injury to the tissues:
• Grade 1/mild sprains – the ligaments are stretched, but not torn.
• Grade 2 /moderate – some of the ligaments are torn. This may involve some loss of function.
• Grade 3 /severe sprains – complete tear all the way through the ligament. These usually require medical or surgical care to ensure recovery. As the ligament tears away from the bone, it may also take a small chip of bone with it, resulting in an avulsion fracture.
Symptoms of a Wrist joint sprain
• Immediate pain in the wrist area
• Swelling and sometimes bruising around the wrist
• Movement of the wrist will cause increased pain
• If the sprain is severe there may be some laxity (excessive movement) at the wrist joint
• Tenderness at the site of injury
• A feeling of popping or tearing in the wrist
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose and treat mild to moderate sprains. In severe sprains surgery may be required followed by physiotherapy. If a fracture is suspected an x-ray may be done to assess any damage to the bones.
Initial management of a wrist sprain would involve reducing pain and inflammation. This may include the use of electrotherapeutic modalities, ice, gentle soft tissue techniques, rest from activity and possibly the wearing of a protective splint, brace or tape. Once the initial inflammation has settled and time has been allowed for healing, treatment would move onto focus on progressively restoring full range of motion and strength of the wrist. Your physiotherapist would also be involved in guiding you in your return to sport and preventative measure to prevent re-injury.