Recovery time of a sprained wrist and How to heal it faster ?

recover faster from wrist sprain

Sprained wrists are so common. In every age groups we can see incidents with sprained wrists. From children who run here and there to elders who slipped and fall have very common this. Young people gets this due to sports like basketball, gymnastics and other contact sports. When it happens next thing comes to your mind is when will this get healed. Because this cause limitation to your daily works.

The healing of a sprained wrist take time. Usually a simple sprained wrist takes to heal about 1 – 2 weeks. If the treatment process include surgery it takes about 8 – 12 weeks. But healing process depends on several factors.

Factors determine the healing process

We can categorize these factors by patient factors and injury factors.

Patient factors

  1. Age – age is a crucial factor in healing. Older people have less healing ability compared with young. When we grow older our body functions gradually deteriorate. Because of that our natural healing process impaired. Although small children has rapid healing process, because little children are very active and difficult to immobilize the joint there is a risk of healing the joint with a deformity.
  2. Pre-existing disease conditions – If we have a chronic disease it can impair our healing process. Diabetes, Blood related disorders like leukaemia and chronic kidney disease are the common diseases that can reduce healing time.
  3. Drugs you already using – People are using certain drugs to reduce their immunity because of certain diseases. Immune modulating drugs like Prednisone, Azathioprine, Cyclophosphamide are included in this category.
  4. Smoking, Alcohol and IV drug abuse – There are certain habits that are seriously damage our immunity. Smoking is the commonest. People who follow these habits have more healing time than others.

Injury factors

  1. Severity of injury – Severity is categorized by a grading method. According to that, grade 1 injury takes about 1 – 2 weeks. And grade 3 injury takes up to 3 – 4 months to heal.
  2. Long lasting swelling – Although swelling process works as a protective mechanism it impairs the healing process.
  3. Frequent mobilization – A damaged joint has to be in rest. If we move the joint frequently it tend to damage continuously. So healing process impaired. But this doesn’t means complete immobility. There should be movement on joint otherwise the joint freezes.

Can a sprained wrist heal naturally?

The answer is yes it can. It depends on the factors we mentioned above. If we are healthy without any pre existing disease, grade 1 and 2 type injuries can heal naturally. But grade 3 injuries need some interventions most probably surgical.

How to speed up the healing process?

There are certain things we can do to speed up the healing process. It starts from the time the injury occurred. Some experts mention this as RICE method.

  • Rest – rest your joint at least 48 hours. This will prevent further damage to the joint. Because torn ligaments are in a very fragile condition at the time of injury. So further movements on the joint can cause more damage. And this can even cause being the injury a grade up. So healing process lengthens.
  • Ice – recommendation is putting ice at least 10 – 20 minutes with 1 – 2 hours intervals for at least 24 hours. The basis of putting ice is it can reduce the further swelling the surrounding tissues. Putting ice after about 24 hours may not effective because already swelling occurs.
  • Compression – putting a compression over the joint using an elastic bandage is recommended. Compression can reduce the swelling and also it gives a support to the joint. And it can reduce the movements up to a certain extent.
  • Elevation – elevation of the injured wrist above the level of heart is the recommended method. Due to the gravity fluids in the swelling tend to reduce gradually.

Other than this simple methods you can use pain killers to relieved from pain. Most experts recommend Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs ( NSAIDs ) like Ibuprofen, Diclofenac Sodium. But long term use of these drugs can cause gastric ulcers. So need to be concerned while using.

Heat therapy also has a role in speeding the healing process. Doctors recommend to apply heat pad or mild warm cloth over the wrist after 2 – 3 days. It will improve the flexibility of the wrist. Some doctors say that it’s better to use cold and heat therapy intermittently. But there are no proven studies regarding this.

importance of physiotherapy to recover from sprained wrist
Physiotherapy for Wrist sprain – Image from Adobe stock

Importance of physiotherapy

When comes to the healing process of sprained wrist, we can’t forget physiotherapy and rehabilitation. So may think moving the wrist can slow the healing process. But it isn’t. Physiotherapy and rehabilitation programmes are conducted to gain the optimum range of movements of a joint. Specifically after an injury. Because with the injury most of us tend to immobilize the joint. This will cause tighten the joint and ultimately joint movements are reduced even the injury healed.

A trained physiotherapist knows the amount of strength need to use to the joint. It differs from time to time. When injury heals, you can increase the force of strength. But using high force from the start make more damage to the joint.

Physiotherapy improves the blood flow to the site. With the blood flow cells leading healing and nutrients are reached more and more. And waste products from the site is removed effectively. And healing fasten. Using rehabilitation methods hand in hand with the healing, takes less time to reach your normal range of motion.

What you should not to do ?

Most people tend to do their usual works with the sprained wrist. It’s acceptable if your not a heavy manual worker. But if you are, it’s better to think this as a resting period. Give some time to heal the joint. When you work with the pain, it makes healing process longer than usual. And also it can damage the joint further. This can ultimately leads to deformed joint.
If working is mandatory, it’s better you discuss with your managers. And ask less heavy works for you at least until the joint is healed.

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Dr. Sapumal Edirisinghe

MEDICAL DOCTOR (mbbS)

I am a medical doctor who is passionate about the new medical knowledge and spread those to the world to make the world a better place.

Sapumal Edirisinghe

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