A wrist sprain is a common injury resulting from a forceful bending of the wrist beyond its normal range and motion. The stretching and tearing of the ligaments result in pain and instability in the joint.
There are three classes of wrist sprains, and they depend on the severity of the injury. The first level of sprain, the mild or grade I strain, occurs when the ligaments of the wrist are stretched or have microscopic tears. The second type, a moderate or grade II sprain, results when damage is more severe. The ligaments of the wrist may be partially torn. The third category sprain is the grade III sprain, which happens when one or more of the wrist ligaments are completely torn. A grade III sprain also occurs when the ligament is torn away from where it normally attach to the bone.
The vast majority of wrist sprains take place as a person tries to break a fall with an outstretched hand. The impact forces the hand backward, stretching or tearing the wrist joint capsule and ligaments in the process. Common causes of wrist sprains include automobile accidents, as well as sports-related injuries, such as football, basketball and baseball.
The most commonly injured tissues are the joint capsule, the scapholunate ligament, and lunotriquetral ligament. Although symptoms of a wrist sprain can vary, the most common are swelling, persistent pain upon movement, weakness, bruising, and a warming sensation to the skin around the wrist. If a ligament has been seriously injured, the bones of the wrist may pop or shift when the wrist is moved. Mild to moderate wrist sprains typically heal on their own over time. Treatment options include rest, icing the wrist multiple times a day for several days, compression, elevation, immobilization, stretching and strengthening exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications. Severe wrist sprains may require surgery if the ligament has snapped.