A sprained wrist is a common injury that is usually caused by trauma or as a result of overuse. Those who are prone to experiencing a sprained wrist include players of various sports and people who use their hands frequently. Research published in the Journal of Orthopedic Surgery reveals that hand and wrist injuries comprise 25% of all sports-related injuries.
The use of your hands is very important in performing many sports and doing daily activities, therefore a sprained wrist should never be underestimated.
A sprain is an injury to the body’s ligaments, which are the connective tissues that connect your bones together. Sprained wrists are usually manifested by a feeling of popping or tearing as well as pain whenever the wrist is moved. The injured wrist can be painful with a limited range of motion. In some instances, swelling and discoloration brought about by bruising can also be observed.
What happens in wrist sprain injuries?
Sprain injuries can vary greatly depending on their severity. Sprains are categorized into various grades, with grade 1 being the mildest. This involves the overstretching of your ligaments. Grade 2 sprains already involve a partial tear in your ligaments. The worst form is grade 3, wherein your ligament is completely torn. The severity of the pain also increases with every grade.
Who is at risk?
People who make excessive use of their hands are at risk as well as those who expose themselves to slippery areas. Sliding and using the wrists to break the fall might lead to a sprained wrist.
Apart from slipping, people who play contact sports such as basketball, American football, boxing, and other activities like skating, skateboarding, and skiing are also predisposed to suffering from a sprained wrist.
There are several causes of sprain injuries, but an impact which is directed opposite to the normal bending position of one’s wrist is a common cause. Accidents while playing the previously mentioned sports can also cause sprains, especially when the player either attempts to or accidentally lands on the floor with their palms hitting the ground first.
Also, being deliberately hit on the wrist or the application of extreme pressure and twisting force can lead to sprains.
Signs and Symptoms
The first tell-tale sign that a sprain has occurred includes a light cracking or popping sound, and for milder sprains, a burning and stretching sensation which is then followed by immense pain in the area.
Another symptom of a sprain is a tender spot where the ligament has been overstretched as well as discolorations brought about by bruising. You might also experience a limited range of motion in your injured wrist due to swelling. Moving the wrist further aggravates the pain.
How to Manage a Sprained Wrist
Sprained wrists aren’t generally considered as a major injury and patients have a very high chance of recovery.
The initial management of wrist sprains is the RICE principle. Rest the injured wrist to prevent further damage and apply an ice pack to the injured area. A compression bandage should be wrapped around the wrist and some parts of the hand and forearm to immobilize the injury. You can also elevate the injury to prevent further swelling.
In worse cases, the following management may apply:
- Splint or cast
These are applied to prevent movement and immobilize the wrist while healing is taking place. Having a splint or a cast also enables patients to fully rest their injured wrist. This is worn only for a short period of time. Splints and casts should not be applied too loosely for they will be ineffective in immobilizing the injury. If applied too tightly, they might impede blood flow to your wrist and hand.
- Taking pain relievers
There are several readily available painkillers that can be bought in the market nowadays. You may take over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) for pain relief, as these are generally considered safer.
- Strengthening and stretching exercises
This is usually indicated for athletes and for people who engage in sports activities. This is usually availed in physical therapy centers where patients have to participate in programs that are tailored to facilitate healing and promote full recovery from their injury.
A surgery is usually required for grade 3 sprains, wherein a surgical repair is needed to fix the ruptured ligaments in your wrists.
Although sprained wrists might appear mild, there have been instances when worse injuries such as wrist fractures have been misdiagnosed as sprained wrist injuries. Radiological imaging tests such as X-rays are usually conducted to rule out the possibility of fractures. Never overlook a sprained wrist injury because, athlete or not; your wrist is important in getting many tasks done, whether during a game or in everyday life.