Frequently Asked Questions

Wrist Sprain

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What is a wrist sprain?

A wrist sprain happens when one or more ligaments in your wrist stretch or tear. Ligaments are tough tissues that connect bones and keep them in place, and support your joints. A fall onto your outstretched hand can cause a wrist sprain. An injury that causes your wrist to twist can also cause a sprain. This may happen during sports, such as biking, skiing, or snowboarding.

What are the signs and symptoms of a wrist sprain?

  • Swelling and tenderness

  • Pain and stiffness

  • Bruising or changes in skin color

  • Popping sound in your wrist when you move it

How is a wrist sprain diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how you injured your wrist. He will examine your wrist and hand and ask about your symptoms. You may need x-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan of your wrist. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a wrist sprain treated?

Treatment depends on how severe your sprain is. You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's doctor.

  • A splint or cast helps support your wrist and prevent more damage.

  • Surgery may be needed if you have a severe sprain. Arthroscopy may be done to examine the inside of your wrist joint and repair ligament damage. Arthroscopy uses a scope that is inserted through a small incision. You may need open surgery to reconnect torn ligaments to the bone.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest your wrist for at least 48 hours. Avoid activities that cause pain.

  • Ice your wrist for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

  • Wrap your wrist with an elastic bandage. This will help decrease swelling, support your wrist, and help it heal. Wear your wrist wrap as directed. The elastic bandage should be snug but not tight.

  • Elevate your wrist above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your wrist on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms get worse.

  • You have pain and swelling for more than 48 hours.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have severe pain.

  • You have new trouble moving and using your hands, fingers, or wrist.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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