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Wrist Sprain – a common wrist injury

Wrist injuries are extremely common injuries. Typically they occur as the result of falling and landing on the wrist as you attempt to break your fall. This causes a traumatic injury to the ligaments and other soft tissues surrounding the wrist.

What is a wrist sprain?

Sprains occur when the wrist ligaments are forcefully stretched into positions beyond their normal limits. A ligament is strong, fibrous tissue or band that limits and controls the motion at a joint. Ligaments around the wrist joint stabilize the position of the hand and allow movement and weight bearing through the upper limb.

Sprains can be considered

Ø     Grade I: Mild injury - wrist ligaments are stretched, no rupture.

Ø     Grade II: Moderate injury - wrist ligaments partially ruptured.

Ø     Grade III: Severe wrist sprain - wrist ligaments are completely ruptured and the wrist may be unstable.

Who is at risk?

Wrist sprains tend to occur after falls. Wet weather may cause slippery surfaces leading to increased numbers of falls. Sprains are also very common in sports such as football, rugby, basketball, skiing, snowboarding, rollerblading etc. The elderly population who are more prone to falls are at greatest risk or serious wrist injuries.

Signs & Symptoms of a wrist sprain?

  • Pain with movement of the wrist

  • Swelling at or around the wrist joint or into the hand

  • Bruising of the skin at wrist or into the hand

  • Tenderness over the wrist

  • Burning/tingling/pins and needles at the wrist or into the hand

  • Reduced function particularly with weight bearing and gripping activities

Diagnosis can be made by piecing together the mechanism of injury to the objective physical findings. There are several other conditions including wrist fractures and or tendonitis which can present similarly to wrist sprains.

An X-ray is important to exclude any possible fracture at the joints. In severe cases an MRI will be useful in determining the extent of ligament soft tissue damage. MRI can also be effective at determining a precise diagnosis if the wrist is failing to heal after the initial diagnosis is made.

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