Mild to severe wrist pains are common. Two notable bones called triangular fibrocartilage complex and the scapholunate ligament complex are prone to injuries. The rest 20 ligaments of the wrist that connect 8 carpal bones are not vulnerable. An ulnar fovea sign is a clinical test to know the cause of the ulnar sided wrist pain. It has a sensitivity of 95.2% and a specificity of 86.5% and a common cause could be a sudden fall with a high axial load.
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Other causes of wrist sprain are traumatic twisting, being hit or repetitive stress. Your hand might bend too far backwards while playing sports or catching yourself during a fall. Wrist injuries are common in the athletic world with a rate of 3%-9% among all sports. Gymnasts, basketball and baseball players and divers are more susceptible. The signs of a sprain are not limited to swelling, tenderness, restricted movement, warmth at site and a feeling of tearing and popping. Many might experience loss of motion and weakness for several days as well.
Sprains range from Grade 1(mild), Grade 2(moderate) and Grade 3(severe). A mild one may get better with ice and rest, a moderate one may need a splint and a serious injury may end up in surgery. Your healthcare provider will determine the extent of damage (a tiny tear or a complete breakage) and create a suitable treatment plan. If an X-ray or MRI has diagnosed a wrist sprain, below are a few useful ways to restore functionality.
1. Sprain Exercises
A few basic ones are palm up and down, finger range of motion and wrist lifts. These must be done when the pain is nearly gone. Consult your physical therapist first to make sure you are doing them safely and accurately.
Wrist range of motions include:
- Flexion is when you gently bend the wrist forward. Hold for 5 seconds and do 2 sets of 15. This relieves muscle soreness, boosts short-term range of motion, and activates muscles for blood circulation.
- Side to side is when you move the wrist in a handshake motion. Hold for 5 seconds in both directions and do 2 sets of 15. This increases flexibility, relieves stress, and reduces the risks of further injury.
- Extension is when you gently bend the wrist backwards. Hold this position for 5 seconds and do 2 sets of 15. It can tone the muscles and increase endurance.
The next is wrist extension stretching. Stand with the palm downwards. Keep the fingers flat and elbows straight and lean forward. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Wrist flexion stretch is another effective exercise. Stand with the back of your hands on a table, face the palms upwards and point the fingers towards you. Keep the elbows straight and lean away from the body. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
2. Ice Your Wrist
Cover the ice pack with a light absorbent towel. This is crucial to avoid frostbite. Now apply it for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours during the 24-48 hours after injury. It causes the blood vessels to constrict and minimize blood supply to the injury. This reduces inflammation by restricting bleeding into the tissues that improves the healing process.
Try not to keep the ice pack for too long. Take breaks so the skin can warm up. It might cause reactive vasodilation. The vessels are widened to receive sufficient blood. This can lower the oxygen supply and impact blood pressure. Further, no interval between the icing sessions can limit the immune cells. This ends up interfering with the healing process.
3. Compress Bandage
This is an ideal first-aid solution to control swelling. An elastic or plastic wrap can push the edema fluid away from the injured tissue. An ideal way is to start from the base of fingers and wrap around the hand between the thumb and index. Circle the wrist multiple times and end it near the elbow. This is about 5-6 inches above the affected area.
Make sure it is not too tight which can prevent blood flow. Fasten properly with a metal clip. It can heal moderate pain within 6-8 weeks and mild pain within 2 weeks. Use it for 24-48 hours after an injury. Pick self-adherent bandages or gauze wraps to best suit your needs.
See a doctor if pain and swelling persist beyond a few days despite the above treatments. Else it worsens over time and leads to a surgery. You could even end up with arthritis and weakened bones. These situations can be avoided with early medical intervention.