Sprained vs. Broken Wrist | IMPACT Physical Therapy

Sprained vs. Broken Wrist

A man with a sprained wrist

If you’re dealing with persistent wrist pain after breaking a fall with your hand, it’s likely that you have a sprained or broken wrist. But is your wrist broken or sprained? Sprains and fractures of the wrist can both cause swelling, bruising, joint stiffness, and weakened grip strength.

In terms of the injury itself, what’s the difference between a sprained wrist vs. broken wrist? A wrist sprain occurs when one or more of the ligaments in the wrist is stretched or torn. Ligaments are fibrous bands of tissue connecting the carpal bones within the wrist, or that connect the wrist to the forearm. A broken wrist indicates a full or partial fracture of the bone.

Is My Wrist Sprained or Broken?

How does it feel to have a sprained wrist vs. broken wrist? Surprisingly, a sprain can sometimes cause more pain than a fracture. Because it can be difficult to tell the difference between a sprained or broken wrist  based on pain level alone, you’ll want to make a note of these telltale symptoms of a broken wrist. Seek out immediate medical care if you notice:

  • Deformity of the wrist, hand, or forearm.
  • Bone matter that breaks through the skin.

Wrist Sprain Injury

As with ankle sprains, wrist sprains are classified into three grades depending on severity:

  • Stretch Injury – The ligament is stretched, but not torn.
  • Partial Tear – The ligament is partially torn.
  • Complete Tear – The ligament is completely torn.

Severity and duration of symptoms depends on the level of damage to the ligament. With a sprained wrist, you may experience pain when gripping or twisting, swelling, stiffness, and reduced grip strength.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Sprained Or Broken Wrist

Many stretch and partial wrist sprains will heal completely with self-care and pain management, but more severe sprains can involve nerve injuries that require treatment. It’s also possible for certain wrist fractures to heal without treatment, but you should have your injury evaluated by a doctor regardless. Whether you’re dealing with sprained or broken wrist, seek out medical attention if you notice:

  • Severe swelling or bruising
  • Sudden increase in pain
  • Deformity in the wrist, hand, or forearm
  • Inability to move or put pressure on the wrist for several days
  • Persistent numbness and/or tingling

Request an Appointment at IMPACT Physical Therapy

If you have a sprained or broken wrist, a physical therapist can design a treatment plan to help you recover. If you’re in the greater Chicago area, contact us to speak with us about scheduling physical therapy to heal more quickly from a sprain or to regain flexibility and grip strength after a wrist fracture. We have locations in Chicago’s West Loop as well as Hinsdale, Oak Lawn, and Orland Park.