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Physical Therapy for a Wrist Sprain – Information, Exercises, and More

If you’ve experienced a sudden fall or a hit to the wrist, and you have pain or swelling in the area then you may be experiencing a wrist sprain.

It’s one of the most common injuries among athletes, but it can happen to anyone.

The feeling is uncomfortable and can limit your ability to do certain activities. This is frustrating to most people.

The good news is that a mild-to-moderate wrist sprain can heal fairly quickly with the right treatment.

In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about a wrist sprain and how you can get on the path to recovery and back to your normal activities.

What is a Wrist Sprain?

Your wrist is made up of eight small bones lined up in two rows. These bones have no muscles or tendons attached to them, which means that the stability of your wrist depends entirely on the integrity of the ligaments that attach the bones together.

A wrist sprain occurs when any force of impact causes the wrist to bend in a way that puts pressure on the ligaments that connect the wrist and hand bones.

When stretched too far, these ligaments can tear slightly or break completely, which will classify your wrist sprain as Grade I, II, or III.

What Causes a Wrist Sprain?

A frequent injury among athletes, wrist sprains are usually the result of a trauma — like trying to break your fall by putting your hand in front of you — resulting in the ligaments being stretched beyond their normal range of motion.

While falls are the cause of many wrist sprains, they can also occur after extreme twisting of the wrist, or extreme pressure being placed on the wrist.

There are three levels of a wrist sprain.

Grade I (Mild)

The ligaments in the wrist have been stretched or may have microscopic tears. With a Grade I wrist sprain you will likely have pain and only minor damage to the ligaments.

Grade II (Moderate)

The ligament damage is more severe, possibly torn. You may feel pain, a loss of function, and looseness in the joint.

Grade III (Severe Sprains)

When one or more wrist ligaments are torn completely away from where they would normally attach to the bone, then the sprain is more severe. Your pain will likely feel more intense, and you’ll experience severe looseness in the joint.

Wrist Sprain Symptoms

If you have experienced a fall, hit to the wrist, twisting, or pressure, then you may have symptoms that indicate a sprain has occurred.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Warmth and tenderness around the injury
  • Loss of motion
  • Looseness in the joint
  • Weakness
  • A popping or clicking sound when you move your wrist

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms you should see your physician or a doctor of physical therapy for diagnosis. 

Your doctor will conduct a thorough exam and depending on their findings they may order further testing, such as:

  • X-ray or CT Scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Arthrogram (dye is injected into the wrist prior to x-ray or MRI)
  • Arthroscopy (a small camera is surgically inserted into the wrist)

Calling your doctor as soon as you experience symptoms can help prevent further damage to the wrist.

Wrist Sprain Treatment

Treatment for a wrist sprain depends entirely on the severity of the sprain. Once diagnosed, your doctor will prescribe a treatment plan.

Grade I-II Wrist Sprain Treatment

Initial treatment for a mild to moderate wrist sprain begins with the R.I.C.E. rule:

  • Rest the joint
  • Ice to reduce swelling
  • Compress with an elastic bandage
  • Elevate your wrist

Your doctor may also recommend that you take over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) such as Advil or Motrin.

Moderate wrist sprains may require a splint or light cast to immobilize the wrist for 7 to 10 days.

Additionally, a physical therapist will help you to stretch and strengthen your joint with guided exercises and an at-home exercise plan.

Grade III Wrist Sprain Treatment

If you’ve sustained a more severe wrist sprain in which the ligaments have torn, and you experience significant instability in the joint, then surgery may be required.

Wrist Sprain Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

A mild wrist sprain can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to heal, whereas a severe injury could take up to 6 months.

For proper rehabilitation and recovery, it’s recommended that you see a doctor of physical therapy as a part of your treatment.

In order to return to your previous level of physical activity, your physical therapist will guide you through a series of exercises.

The purpose of the exercises is to improve:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility

The more invested you are in your recovery, the sooner you will be able to return to your normal activities.

Best Wrist Sprain Exercises

Depending on the severity of the injury, wrist sprain exercises may be introduced right away or following a period of immobilization or surgery to the wrist.

Wrist exercises after sprain may include:

  • Resisted wrist extension
  • Resisted wrist flexion
  • Resisted radial deviation
  • Resisted ulnar deviation
  • Resisted forearm pronation
  • Resisted supination

Each exercise should be implemented slowly and under the supervised care of a physical therapist.

Physical therapy for sprained wrist injuries can help recover your strength, mobility, and flexibility sooner.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With a Wrist Sprain

In Motion O.C. is a leading physical therapy center dedicated to helping anyone suffering from injuries including wrist sprains.

We have helped hundreds of patients develop a plan for sprained wrist therapy—and we can help you too.

Voted #1 Physical Therapist in the entire country on Yelp!, our reputation speaks for itself. See for yourself, what our clients have to say about their experience at In Motion O.C. 

Don’t suffer any longer. 

Physical therapy for wrist sprain injuries will take place in our state-of-the-art facility by one of our doctors of physical therapy using the latest techniques and equipment available today.

Call us today to book your free consultation.

*This information about physical therapy for wrist sprain was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.