A wrist strain is a general term used to describe pain in the wrist. The pain may be due to a sudden force causing an acute wrist injury, or due to overuse, causing a repetitive strain injury. The area can feel tender, especially when moving it. Because of this, complete rest is the best treatment for recovering from a strain.
Wrist strain symptoms
Symptoms of a wrist strain include pain in the wrist which may develop gradually or suddenly. There may be a specific area which feels tender to touch and swelling may develop. Pain is likely to be reproduced when moving the wrist against resistance.
Strains and sprains
Technically a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon and is usually a small tear. Many people refer to any minor pain in the wrist as a strain, despite most cases being either ligament or tendon injuries. Injury to a ligament which joins bone to bone should be referred to as a sprain.
An acute wrist strain may occur from a sudden force, usually bending the wrist quickly or beyond its natural movement or over leading it by striking a golf club or similar against an immovable object.
A chronic wrist strain may be a repetitive strain injury, which occurs following repeated movements of the wrist. In this case, degeneration of the tendons in the wrist is more likely to be an accurate diagnosis rather than a tear.
An important part of wrist strain treatment is to rest from activities which aggravate the injury. Apply the PRICE principles in the acute stage of protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Ice can be applied for 10 minutes up to every hour for the first 24 to 48 hours which is usually long enough for the acute stage to pass. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin but wrap in a wet tea towel. Commercially available cold wraps are often more convenient.
If the swelling is present apply a compression bandage or support. A simple tube grip or elastic bandage is fine initially. Later a neoprene wrist wrap is good for providing support and retaining heat which will help the tendon heal.
For chronic or persistent cases cross friction massage may help by reducing the tendon back to its acute stage so it can heal properly. Once pain has subsided, strengthening exercises can be used to prevent it from happening again. In particular putty exercises and hand therapy balls can help with wrist strengthening as well as specific flexion, extension and lateral deviation exercises with dumbbells or similar weights.