Falls can happen when you least expect them to, and they’re more common in the winter due to icy weather. A fall can often result in a wrist sprain, which is an injury to a ligament. These types of injuries are common, but can easily be treated.
Description and Cause
Wrist sprains are graded based on the degree of injury to the ligaments:
- Grade 1—Ligaments are stretched, but not torn.
- Grade 2—Ligaments are partially torn—this grade may involve some loss of function.
- Grade 3—Ligaments are completely torn. These are more severe and require medical or surgical care.
Wrist sprains are most often caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand. This can happen during everyday activities, but is more likely to occur when walking on a slick surface like an icy sidewalk.
Wrist sprains can often be identified by pain in the wrist, but some of the other most common symptoms of a wrist sprain include:
- Swelling in the wrist
- Pain at the time of the injury
- Persistent pain when you move your wrist
- Bruising or discoloration of the skin around the wrist
- Tenderness at the injury site
- A feeling of popping or tearing inside the wrist
- A warm or feverish feeling to the skin around the wrist
Wrist injuries can sometimes seem minor because of minimal swelling, but this could actually mean that an important ligament has been torn that will require surgery.
Mild sprains can be treated at home using the RICE protocol.
- Rest the joint for at least 48 hours.
- Ice the injury to reduce swelling. (Do not apply ice directly to the skin—use an ice pack or wrap a towel around the ice.)
- Compress the swelling with an elastic bandage.
- Elevate the injury above the level of the heart.
Moderate sprains may be immobilized using a wrist splint for at least a week. This may cause some stiffness in the wrist, so your doctor may recommend some stretching exercises to help regain mobility.
Severe sprains may require surgery, which involves reconnecting the ligament to the bone. Surgery will be followed by a rehabilitation period to restore strength and motion in your wrist. The recovery time for this usually depends on the severity of the sprain.
Wrist sprains most often occur as the result of a fall, so be sure to walk carefully on wet or slippery surfaces. This caution is even more important during the winter months, when icy weather is common.
To learn more about wrist sprains and how you can prevent them, visit https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/wrist-sprains.