A sprain is a partial injury to a ligament. Ligaments form the connections between the different bones in the wrist (Figure 1). Ligament sprains range from mild stretches to partial tears.
There are many ligaments in the wrist that can be sprained. Two of the common ones are the scapholunate ligament, in the middle of the wrist between the scaphoid and lunate bones (Figure 2), and the TFCC (triangular fibrocartilage complex) on the outside of the wrist. Sometimes, wrist sprains can pull off a tiny piece of bone. This is called an avulsion fracture.
Wrist sprains are usually caused by falls or sudden twisting motions. The wrist is usually bent backwards or into an abnormal position.
A sprained wrist is often swollen and painful, especially with motion. There may be bruising. Pain and swelling can develop over several days and may last anywhere from a few days to six weeks.
Wrist sprains are usually treated without surgery. Ice and a splint or gentle wrap may be helpful for the first few days after a wrist sprain. Treatment typically involves resting the injured wrist and wearing a splint as needed until symptoms improve, which may take up to 6 weeks. Prescription pain medications are not usually recommended. If symptoms do not improve after a reasonable period of time, additional imaging may be ordered to look for a more serious injury.
© 2018 American Society for Surgery of the Hand