A sprained wrist occurs when the strong ligaments that support the wrist stretch beyond their limits or tear. This occurs when the wrist is bent or twisted forcefully. This can be caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand. Wrist sprains are common injuries. They can range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage there is to the ligaments.
Ligaments are strong, fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. The ligaments in the wrist help to keep the bones in proper position and stabilize the joint. Sprains can range from a stretch or tiny tear in the fibers that make up the ligament to a complete tear through the ligament or through its attachment to the bone.
What causes a sprained wrist?
Wrist sprains are caused most often by a fall onto an outstretched hand. This might happen during everyday activities, but frequently occurs during sports and outdoor recreation.
What are the symptoms of a sprained wrist?
A sprained wrist is painful. Other symptoms may include:
- Tenderness to touch
- A feeling of popping or tearing inside the wrist
- A feeling of warmth around the wrist
Even a wrist injury that seems mild with minimal swelling could have a torn ligament and require surgery to avoid long-term problems. Similarly, an unrecognized fracture can be mistaken for a mild or moderate sprain. If left untreated, the fracture may not heal properly and the patient could need surgery that might have been avoided with early, appropriate treatment. The most common example of this is an occult fracture of the scaphoid, one of the small bones in the wrist.
It is important for your doctor to evaluate even a mild wrist injury if it does not improve quickly. This is especially important if the injury causes persistent wrist pain. Proper diagnosis and treatment of wrist injuries is necessary to avoid long-term problems, including chronic pain, stiffness, and arthritis.