Sprained Wrist

By Jay Herrera, DPT
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A Sprained Wrist is a condition where the ligaments and connective tissue of the wrist has been traumatized to a degree causing pain and dysfunction.

Depending on the severity of the injury, there are degrees of injury. A sprained wrist condition  can be caused  by a number of factors. Examples include: trauma to tissue, fall onto tissue, excessive exercise, being hit by an object, or sports injury to name a few. No matter what the cause, a sprained wrist is an indication of damage to the connective tissue at the wrist region.

Inflammation is the common reaction to a sprained body part as the body attempts to heal.  A sprained wrist can limit normal joint range of motion of the wrist joint. It can impact muscle function and cause a deactivation of muscle contraction ability which can lead to true muscle weakness and then impact your ability to perform daily functional tasks like grasping, brushing your teeth with the affected hand, combing your hair, carry a gallon of milk etc. Therefore, controlling the pain and inflammation is often key to improving pain and function (movement).

Managing the wrist sprain should be to control any inflammation and restore/promote normal motion (if limited).

Range of motion exercises that promote general, pain free motion of the body region where the muscle contusion is noted should be emphasized. Ensuring the contused muscles that attach into the joint can remain flexible and function. Muscle activation exercises such as isometric (tightening) exercises of the contused muscles can be useful to minimize weakness of the joint. These type of exercises can be perform in sitting, lying down or even standing positions.

You can also implement cold pack and warm pack to be applied to the painful area to attempt to relieve pain and control inflammation as well as reduce muscular tension.

Topical pain relieving agents like BioFreeze® or Celadrin® can also help to reduce pain and muscle tension enabling for improve comfort with motion exercises, stretches, isometric exercise.

If self management is not successful at resolving the issue, then you may need to seek the care of a licensed healthcare provider such as a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor.

Using specialized techniques, your qualified healthcare professional can implement effective treatment procedures that can include the following:

  • Joint manipulation
  • Soft tissue mobilization
  • Cold laser therapy
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical Muscular Stimulation
  • Fascial manipulation
  • Cross Function Massage
  • Functional Manual Therapy
  • Neuromuscular re-education

In the short term of addressing the sprained wrist (1-4 weeks), whether it is self management or via professional healthcare intervention, you can expect the pain and irritation to be up and down where it will seem to do better one day then worse the next. Maintaining consistency is key to resolving the issue effectively.

If the condition does not respond to your self management and as it progresses into a more chronic experience (> 4 weeks), seeking professional intervention can help to prevent a severe chronic problem that becomes much more difficult to manage.

Your healthcare professional can examine and advise a treatment plan along with a prognosis on your condition. Treatment can last from a couple of treatments to several times a week for several weeks. It all depends on the severity of your condition.