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Wrist sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries that affect our day to day lives. Although, some individuals are prone to wrist sprains more than others it can be effectively managed.

The wrist joint is not a single joint but comprises of the articulations between the carpal bones (part of the bones inside the hand) and the articulation with the forearm (bones of the forearm). This complex has many ligament and muscles and help keep its bones in place; sturdy and flexible.

Because the wrist and the hand complex has many joints, which provide flexibility, it enables the hand to grasp and manipulate objects in the world around us. Sometimes, too much work or as we call it; over-use, might cause injury to the wrist.

The wrist joint consists of the farthest ends of the radius and ulna (via an intra-articular disc) and the first row of carpal bones.

So what is a wrist sprain?

A wrist sprain is an acute (short term) injury that causes a stretch or tearing of the ligaments of the wrist. These ligaments are strong tissues that hold bones together and when a tear or stretch happens, you may notice swelling, tenderness, clicking sounds and pain that comes with motion, limitations of motion, and sometimes redness.

Wrsit sprains can severely limit movements
Wrist sprains can severely limit movements

Wrist and hand injuries are common in some sports and in activities that involve repetitive use of your hands: cleaning, washing, lifting heavy load, driving, typing or in traumatic situations where you fall on your hand out-stretched (which is often the most common cause).

Injury to the wrist depends largely on the activity, the main point of contact with the activity, the force used to carry out that activity and the frequency of force repetition in which the activity is being carried out. This injury could also either be a traumatic or over-use injury.

There are different degrees as to how much “sprain” a ligament might have, depending on the degree of tear or stretch. It could be mild, moderate, severe (which is grade 1, 2 &3 respectively).

I have sprain, what next?

Stop! Stop any or every activity that you think caused the sprain or makes symptoms worse. If every time you wash clothes and when trying to squeeze it dry, you feel pain in your wrist? Stop.

Rest-off that activity for about 24-48 hours. Usually, a wrist splint is best to help keep the wrist immobile and at rest during this period.

A wrist splint should only be worn when active and not to bed. Duration for which the splint should be worn depends on the grade of sprain. Please speak to your physiotherapist about how long your splint should be worn.

Next is you want to reduce the swelling and pain by using ice compression/ toweling and NOT A DEEP MASSAGE with a HOT BALM. Using a cold compress or ice will help reduce swelling and pain. Do this for 15-20 minutes at least every 3 to 4 hours a day for the next 2-3 days.

Avoid heat or deep massage
Avoid heat or deep massage

Also, elevate your wrist above your heart, on a pillow or high surface as often has you can.

During the healing or recovery period of your injury, you will be prescribed gentle range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises to further aid recovery and improve strength and stability in your wrist.

Luckily, wrist sprains are often easy to self-diagnose and self-manage. But in some cases, adequate medical attention should be sorted especially when symptoms do not resolve in about 2-10 weeks depending on the degree of the sprain.

Wrist sprain management
If symptoms persist, please visit your physician or physiotherapist at once.

If symptoms persist, please visit your physician or physiotherapist at once.


  • Sports-health/sports-injuries/hand-and-wrist-injuries/treating-wrist-sprains
  • Walter R.F, Stanley A.H, Lyle J.M, Julie K.S. Clinical sports medicine: Medical management and rehabilitation. © 2007, Elsevier Inc.
  • Christer Rolf. The Sports Injuries Handbook: Diagnosis and Management. Published in 2007 by A & C Black Publishers Ltd.