Symptoms and Signs of Sprained Wrist

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 4/23/2022

Doctor's Notes on Sprained Wrist

A sprained wrist is an injury to one or more ligaments (band of tissue that attaches to bones on each side of a joint) in the wrist. There are many ligaments in the wrist; injuries can be graded (grade 1: ligament fibers are stretched; grade 2: fibers are partially torn; grade 3: ligament is completely torn). Signs and symptoms for wrist sprains are most often pain and decreased range of motion that happens almost immediately. Inflammation occurs often with swelling, tenderness, warmth, and redness. Some people may have a popping, clicking, or grinding in the wrist.

Falling forward with the hand outstretched is the most common cause of a wrist sprain. Other causes may be secondary and lead to falls such as poor eyesight, poor balance, muscle weakness, slipping on ice, or other slick surfaces. Overuse wrist injuries can occur (for example, with tennis, golf, or racquetball).

What Are the Treatments for a Wrist Sprain?

In general, the treatment for wrist sprains (and other sprains) uses the RICE treatment as follows:

  • Rest: Stop any exercise or activities and do not put any weight or pressure on the wrist.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel) to the wrist for up to 20 minutes every 2-3 hours.
  • Compression: Wrap a bandage around the injury to support it.
  • Elevate: Keep it raised on a pillow as much as possible.

Additional treatments include the following:

  • Medications: over-the-counter medications (NSAIDs) or prescription (like codeine) if needed
  • Splint for support and rest.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.