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Wrist Sprain: Teen Version


What is a wrist sprain?

A sprain is an injury to a joint that causes a stretch or tear in a ligament. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another. Your wrist is made up of 8 bones that are attached to your hand bones and the bones of your forearm. The wrist joint is covered by a joint capsule and the bones are connected by ligaments.

How does it occur?

A wrist sprain can happen when you fall on your wrist or hand, when you are struck by an object, or during a forced motion of the wrist.

What are the symptoms?

You have pain, swelling, and tenderness in your wrist.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will review your symptoms and examine your wrist. You may have an X-ray to be sure you have not broken any bones in your wrist.

How is it treated?

To treat this condition:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the wrist every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Raise your wrist on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
  • Wear a splint or cast on your wrist as directed by your provider.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover.

Some serious wrist sprains that involve ligament tears may need surgery.

How long will the effects last?

The length of recovery depends on many factors such as your age and health, and if you have had a previous wrist injury. Recovery time also depends on the severity of the wrist sprain. Pain from a wrist sprain may last several weeks or longer. You need to stop doing the activities that cause pain until your wrist has improved. If you continue doing activities that cause pain, your symptoms will return and it will take longer to recover.

When can I return to my normal activities?

Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your wrist recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.

You may return to your activities when the injured wrist can move normally without pain. Your injured wrist, hand, and forearm need to have the same strength as the uninjured side.

How can I prevent a wrist sprain?

A wrist sprain usually occurs during an accident that is not preventable. However, when you are doing activities such as rollerblading be sure to wear protective wrist guards.


Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-08
Last reviewed: 2010-06-21

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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