The structure of the wrist joint is very complicated. It has eight small bones that are attached to one another with the help of ligaments. These ligaments add flexibility to the joint. Sprain occurs when one or more of these ligaments get stretched too much or there is a tear in the fibers. Ligaments suffer this kind of damage mostly due to a bad fall, traumatic injury, or overuse of the wrist.
Sprain in the wrist is often categorized into three different grades. Grade I sprain is a minor injury caused by overstretching of the ligaments. In grade II, ligaments are partially torn. Grade III is the most severe form in which the ligaments are badly torn and the affected wrist may lose its stability. The intensity of symptoms largely depends on the severity of the sprain.
Painful swollen wrist is the most obvious sign of a sprained wrist. Besides, there are other symptoms as well. The characteristics of the symptoms are given below:
- Wrist pain is felt as soon as the sprain occurs in the ligament. Later on, pain is felt every time you try to use the wrist for some activity. In serious cases, the pain persists, which tends to worsen with the passage of time.
- Mild to moderate swelling occurs around the wrist. When the swelling is mild, you may not have any problem in wrist movements. However, too much of swelling will affect its range of motion.
- The area around the injured joint turns red, becomes tender and warm.
- Localized skin discoloration is another sign of this particular sprain, which results from bruising.
- In some cases, popping sounds can be heard while moving the wrist.
- In those cases where the nerve gets damaged along with the ligaments, tingling and numbness can be felt in the wrist or the entire hand.
Like any other sprains and strains, the initial treatment for a sprained wrist is rest and ice application. With more and more rest, the joint will recover faster. Ice application is good for controlling the pain and swelling of the area. However, do not forget to wrap up the ice in a piece of cloth before applying it on the wrist. The duration of each ice application should not be more than 15 minutes. You can repeat it 4-5 times throughout the day.
Use of a sling to keep the hand in an elevated state, is highly recommended for this sprain. If the pain is unbearable, then pain relieving medicines can be taken with your doctor consultation. These conservative methods of treatment should make you feel better within 48 hours. Still, you have to rest and apply ice for next couple of weeks. This is because, the tough fibrous tissue of ligaments do not get healed up easily. As the pain goes down, start moving your fingers to and fro, without moving the wrists. This will increase blood flow to the wrist and enhance healing.
Before resuming normal activities, you must do some wrist strengthening exercises that involve a lot of stretching of the joint. Such wrist exercises will strengthen the wrist and make it more flexible and thus reduce the chances of any further injury. In rare cases, where the ligaments are completely torn, surgery is needed to repair the damage.
The time required for the wrist sprain to heal is different for every individual. If the treatment starts as soon as the symptoms are observed, one can recover from it quite faster. However, delay in wrist sprain treatment can worsen the condition and the injury may take longer time to heal.