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If you’re experiencing wrist pain or discomfort after an accident you may have a sprain. A wrist sprain can be a painful and inconvenient injury so understanding the symptoms and best treatment are essential. Read on to find out more about how to identify a sprain and what you can do to recover.

WHAT IS A WRIST SPRAIN?

A wrist sprain, as with other sprains, involves a twisting or tearing of the ligaments connecting the bones at the joint. Due to the large number of ligaments contained within the wrist, sprains can be extremely common and must be treated quickly.

Wrist sprains can occur when the hand is suddenly forced back or twisted in such a way as to place a large amount of impact stress on the many ligaments which provide support and mobility to the hand. This can happen as the result of a fall or other collision during a sports activity and must be immediately treated.

WHAT ARE THE “GRADES” OF WRIST SPRAIN?

As with most sprain injuries, wrist sprains are divided into 3 distinct grades, depending on the severity. They are as follows:

  • Grade 1 – mild – This is the lowest grade of sprain, and involves stretching of the ligament. Any tearing of the ligament is small enough as to not be noticeable. There may be some level of discomfort, but the mobility and ability of the wrist to support weight is to a large degree not affected
  • Grade 2 –  moderate – This is the medium grade of sprain, and involves some tearing of the ligaments. A sprain of this grade results in a general feeling of looseness in the joint, and most likely at least a small amount of loss of function in the affected wrist
  • Grade 3 – severe – This is the highest grade of sprain, and involves a total tearing of one or more of the wrist ligaments. These sprains are extremely serious and anyone affected should immediately seek medical advice

The above is intended to be used as a guide for you to quickly assess the severity of your injury. For an accurate assessment and diagnosis, it is crucial that you speak to a Doctor or other qualified health care professional.

SYMPTOMS

It is far more difficult to quickly assess the level of damage done to the wrist, compared to other body parts such as the knee or ankle. Therefore, extra care must be taken not to put any stress on the affected area until the level of sprain can be assessed. The symptoms of a wrist sprain include:

  • Pain in the wrist at the moment of injury, and a constant nagging pain with movement of the wrist joint
  • Swelling in the wrist
  • Bruising surrounding the wrist
  • A tenderness and warmth surrounding the wrist
  • Difficulty moving the wrist, or loss of control of the hand
  • A popping or tearing sensation, either at the moment of injury or afterwards

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for a diagnosis.

TREATMENT

The treatment for wrist sprain depends on the severity, the number of ligaments damaged, and whether the bone was dislodged (an avulsion fracture). It is advisable to seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible, in order to assess the extent of the damage to the wrist.

There are several easy steps that it is extremely advisable to take to minimise damage to the ligament and maximise the chances of a speedy and successful recovery. The first thing to do is to use the R.I.C.E. method:

  • Rest – Rest the joint for at least 48 hours
  • Ice – Cool the affected joint with an ice pack or a CoolXChange bandage. If using an ice pack do not apply for more than 20-minute intervals, as this can cause damage to the skin
  • Compression – Compression of the wrist joint helps to control swelling and stimulate blood flow while minimising further damaging movement
  • Elevate – Raise the wrist above the heart. This is important as it allows the heart to regulate the blood flow to the joint and helps to reduce swelling and bruising, which can further reduce mobility and increase the time required for the joint to heal.

Anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medication can also be recommended by your healthcare professional, to provide relief from swelling pain.

Your medical professional may assess the damage using either an X-Ray, CT, or MRI scan. This is extremely important, as an improperly treated wrist sprain could lead to chronic complications.

A moderate sprain may require the wrist to be kept in a splint for a week or so. This will allow the joint to heal with the minimum of extra movement. A more severe sprain may require surgical assistance, please discuss this with your healthcare professional.

RECOVERY TIME

  • A mild sprain can take as little as 48 hours, or as long as 2 weeks to heal to a point where full use has returned
  • A moderate strain can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to heal fully
  • A severe strain can take up to 10 weeks to heal and may require surgery beforehand

These are guidelines only. It is up to you to decide when your wrist feels that it is healed to a point where exercise and physical activity can be resumed. When the wrist no longer hurts, has the full range of movement, and has the same level of grip strength as before the injury, then that is a good sign that the wrist is either fully healed or very close.

In all these cases, however, it is vital that you speak with a healthcare professional or physiotherapist, and assess the exact damage to the wrist. not receiving treatment for severe damage to the wrist in a reasonable timeframe can lead to chronic issues later on.

CoolXChange supports active lifestyles. The gel bandage provides cooling and compression with no need for refrigeration. Keep the bandage handy in your first aid kit or your glovebox. Buy CoolXChange from our official online retailer.

For more interesting posts, check out:
How do you treat an ankle sprain
Knee sprain symptoms & recovery
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– Not forgotten: First aid kit contents checklist