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Physical Therapy for Wrist Sprains

Wrist sprains can happen when you fall on an outstretched hand, also called a FOOSH injury. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is a strong fibrous tissue that connects one bone to another. In wrist sprain, any of the ligaments in your wrist can become overly stretched or sometimes tear leading to pain and inflammation.

Although anyone can get a wrist sprain, the condition is particularly common in sports activities


The most common cause of a wrist sprain is overstretching of a ligament in the wrist while trying to prevent a fall with an outstretched hand. You can develop a wrist sprain when you slip forward or backward landing on your outstretched hand. Excessive turning of your wrist, beyond the allowable movement, may also lead to wrist strains.

Some sports associated with wrist sprains include
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Pole vaulting
  • Baseball
  • Ice hockey
  • Martial arts (e.g. judo)
  • Wrestling

Competition or recreational sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, and ice or roller skating are at risk of a FOOSH injury as well.

Symptoms of Wrist Sprains

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may have
  • Pain at the site of your injury
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty moving the wrist and hand
  • Weakness of forearm and hand muscles

Some people say that they had a "popping" sensation at the time of their injury.

Because the symptoms of a wrist sprain mimics that of other wrist injuries like a wrist bone fracture, it is important that you consult your health care provider, especially when you experience severe pain and swelling.

Physical therapy for wrist sprains

Your physical therapist will be asking about your activities that led to your injury and related past medical history. Then, your therapist will be conducting a thorough evaluation and examination of your wrist and associated structures. He or she will then formulate a comprehensive rehabilitation program to address your specific problems and goals.

Often, the first goal of physical therapy rehabilitation for wrist sprains is to decrease your pain and swelling (inflammation). It will be followed by stretching and strengthening exercises once your symptoms have subsided.

Wrist Sprain Physical Therapy Treatment Options

Physical therapy treatment options may include a combination of any of the following depending on the severity of your injury and your symptoms.
  • Ice pack application / heat therapy
  • Electrotherapeutic modality (e.g. ultrasound)
  • Gentle range of motion exercises
  • Joint mobilization
  • Gentle stretching exercises
  • Progressive strengthening exercises
  • Recommend brace or forearm splint if necessary
  • Taping
  • Work or sports-specific rehab program
  • Patient education
    • Activity modification
    • Precautions
    • Wrist injury prevention
    • Home management and exercise program

The type of rehabilitation program that you will receive will be determined by your physical therapist based on your presenting signs and symptoms and specific goals.

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