We are often told that a sprain is a minor issue, but when we know just what a sprain is, we understand that it deserves good care and adequate time to heal. This is particularly true when it is a wrist sprain.
A sprain, according to the technical definition, is, “A stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon.” That alone sounds pretty serious, but when you realize that it is those torn or stretched tendons that hold the muscle to the bone, you understand that this is no laughing matter.
Essentially, a wrist sprain is when the tendons that hold the wrist together have been over extended or damaged, making it very hard for you to use your hand properly. The most frequent way that a wrist sprain occurs is in a fall or during active sports. The hand is usually bent backward or forward at a extreme angle, and this tears or overextends the tendons.
The immediate response is pain, and this is rapidly followed by swelling. The hand becomes painful and difficult to move. Generally, it is not all of the tendons in the wrist that are harmed. There are two ligaments that seem to take the brunt of falls and injuries of this kind, and they are the scapho-lunate ligaments, which are tucked between the scaphoid and lunate bones in the hand/wrist area.
Though other sprains can occur, it is most common to experience this particular type of sprain, but it can also range from mild to severe, with some instances of ligament rupture occurring.
Dealing With a Wrist Sprain
Should you fall or sustain any sort of injury that leads you to believe you have injured or sprained the wrist, do not hesitate to get to a hand doctor. They are going to be able to determine what has happened by taking x-rays, doing a thorough exam, and discovering if there are any fractures in addition to the sprain.
The most conservative treatment is immobilization in a splint or a cast. If there has been more extensive injury, it may be necessary to perform surgery in order to repair damaged ligaments or bones. The scaphoid bone is the most frequently broken bone in the hand, and it can be difficult to heal, meaning even a minor sprain that includes a broken scaphoid bone may need surgery.
As with many types of hand injury, a wrist sprain is best dealt with immediately. If the injury is ignored, it becomes a chronic concern. After several months or years, the ligament may still need repair, but in many instances the chronic condition worsens and can allow arthritis to set in or for the joint to become very stiff. Treatment can range from surgery to steroid injections and therapy. As the American Society for Surgery of the Hand indicates, “Despite optimal treatment, wrist sprains occasionally result in residual long term pain, stiffness, and swelling.”
The complexity of the wrist makes it difficult to rebalance the many bones and tissues after injury. Instead of waiting to see how the wrist heals after an injury or fall, head to your hand doctor and get the best possible treatment and results.