How to Prevent Wrist Sprains

Three Parts:Protecting Your Wrist during ExercisePreventing Sprains in the Day-to-DayStrengthening Your Wrist

A wrist sprain is an injury to the tough ligaments found in the wrist, often resulting from overstretching or tearing. Wrist sprains are common when an individual falls on their outstretched hand, with the wrist taking most of the force.[1] Wrist sprains are usually graded from mild to severe, depending on how the ligaments have been injured. However, any sprain can be prevented with the right care during activities, in the day-to-day, and with the right wrist-strengthening exercises. Start with Step 1 below to prevent wrist sprains from happening to you.

Part 1
Protecting Your Wrist during Exercise

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    Wear protective gear. If you are an athlete or live a very active lifestyle, consider wearing protective gear like wrist guards and wrist splints while engaging in sports – especially sports where you're likely to take a fall, like street hockey or snowboarding. These aids are designed to protect the hand and wrist from rigid force in case of a tackle or fall. There are also protective wraps and tapes that allow for better grip, mobility, and reduced pain, too.
    • Protecting the wrist with tape is called strapping or wrist taping. This is important especially for those athletes who are involved in weightlifting and diving. It helps to prevent the wrist from bending too far backwards and helps to prevent sprains in case injury or fall.
      • If you're wondering how to use athletic tape properly, consider reading wikiHow's How to Wrap a Wrist for more information.
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    Make sure you warm up and then stretch properly. Regular warm-up and stretching exercises prior to practice and sporting events help to strengthen muscles. However, don't stretch cold! Make sure you do some light jogging, jumping jacks, and wrist and arm rotations before you stretch. Stretching prior to warming up can actually lead to injury.
    • Warm-up exercises prepare your body for more intense exercise by improving blood circulation. They condition the body cells by getting enough oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, improving your stamina and endurance during exercise. Likewise, they prevent drastic changes in blood pressure as you gradually increase the intensity of the exercise you're doing.
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    Cool down, too. This part is just as important as warming up and stretching. Cool down stretches help remove waste products from muscles like lactic acid, which causes heaviness and discomfort in the wrist area during exercise. If you don't, you may find that your muscles are stiff the next time you go to be active, making injury more likely.
    • Yoga and pilates are two good examples of cooling-down, stretching exercises. You don't want to bring your muscles to a jarring halt; it's much better to bring them to a slow stop by cooling down with exercises dedicated to strength and flexibility.
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    Learn the "safer" way to fall. Athletes should be advised to learn the techniques of falling correctly by their coaches to avoid wrist sprains. Most of the time when falling, people use their hand(s) to protect their head and the face from being exposed to the ground; this is what usually results in a wrist sprain. Instead, aim to roll with your arms tucked into your body. This assists in evenly distributing the force of the fall over your entire trunk, taking the pressure off your wrist.
    • If you're skiing, drop the poles when you feel yourself about to fall. This helps to prevent the wrist from bending backwards, therefore preventing a wrist sprain. What's more, use ski poles that have a lower profile grasp and don't use the straps. This way, in an emergency, you can ditch the poles and fall gracefully without spraining your wrist.

Part 2
Preventing Sprains in the Day-to-Day

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    Walk carefully. Wrist sprains are usually the result of a poorly landed fall. Therefore, it is advisable to take extra caution when walking on slippery and wet areas. Wear shoes with non-slip soles to avoid falling, in addition to walking carefully and being aware of your surroundings.
    • It may sound silly, but take your eyes off your phone! Simply looking around your surroundings at eye level can prevent unnecessary accidents from happening. Keep your head up to watch out for obstacles in your path that could lead to injury.
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    Use proper body mechanics. Allow your arm muscles to share a fair amount of the workload while keeping the joints (namely, your elbow and shoulder) at an average range of motion. Don’t carry objects that are too heavy to make maintaining good body mechanics easier. Your wrist will be fine if you avoid overextending and overexerting it.
    • Take extra precautionary measures to keep the wrist in a neutral position while carrying or lifting heavy objects. Use straps on hard-to-lift boxes, push large objects with your arms and core, and, when in doubt, ask for a helping hand.
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    Take breaks. It's important to take a regular break after continuously working your wrist, just like you would after hours of stretching your mind. If your hand, wrists, and arms are getting worn out, take that as a cue that your body needs a breather. Listening to how your muscles feel is a huge step in staying physically healthy.
    • This goes for everything from wrist strengthening exercises to lifting heavy objects. Unlike your legs and core, your wrists are not capable of sustaining prolonged, vigorous activity. If you find yourself constantly overusing your wrists, try to take a short break every twenty to thirty minutes to keep potential sprains at bay.
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    Get a balanced, healthy diet. Getting a sufficient amount of essential vitamins and minerals from nutritious foods does not just aid faster recovery of sprain injury, but also works in protecting the muscles and ligaments within our body. Make the majority of your diet fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
    • Unhealthy foods like chips, candies, and crackers contain loads of empty calories. In other words, they are very high in calories yet are not good sources of nutrients. Cut out these unnecessary foods from your diet. Avoid eating junk foods as they can reduce the mineral density of the bones and increase fluid loss.
    • Although there has been very little research to prove that diet can actually prevent injuries, there are strong theoretical links to show that nutrition significantly impacts potential cases of injury.[2]
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    Get more calcium and vitamin C. Everyone knows that calcium is great for building strong bones. According to the National Institute for Health, the adult daily calcium requirement is 1000 to 1200 milligrams per day. Green leafy vegetables and low-fat dairy products such as milk and cheese are rich in calcium and should be staples of your diet.
    • Our body needs vitamin C (otherwise known as ascorbic acid) to create collagen. This is because it is essential in building tissues and ligaments. Most fruits and vegetables have high vitamin C content. For the record, the body only needs 75 to 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day; excess vitamin C will be excreted in urine.
    • Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement. Though getting these nutrients straight from their natural source is best, supplements are your next best bet. Ask your doctor what nutrients and supplements you may benefit from.
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    Get more protein. This nutrient is essential in building muscles and tissues; it also plays a crucial role in bone repair. Protein restores collagen and maintains fluid balance within the cells. Yogurt, eggs, cheese, poultry, fish and red, lean meats are good sources of protein. Beans and nuts also have good amounts of protein, too.
    • The recommended amount of protein for the average adult is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This is about 46 grams for a sedentary woman and 56 grams for a sedentary man.[3]
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    Maintain a healthy weight. For your muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, and bones, it's important to maintain a healthy weight. This is easiest done through a combination of diet and exercise, though you need a plan specifically tailored to your needs. Talk to your doctor about what you think you're capable of, especially if you're overweight or obese.
    • Our joints have to work harder and harder the more weight we have on our bones. This extra weight can make our wrists weak and prone to injury. What's more, obesity can hinder balance, leading to untimely falls and wrist sprains. Consider a combination of cardio exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises to hit your goal weight, in addition to the wrist exercises discussed below.

Part 3
Strengthening Your Wrist

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    Strengthen your wrist extensors with "wrist rollers." Wrist extensors are opposite of the wrist flexor that extends from the back of the hand to the elbow. Wrist sprain can occur when a lot of force is applied to the back of the hand or while moving the fingers towards the forearm. These muscles can be strengthened by doing exercises that begin with flexing the wrist while the fist is down and ends with flexing the wrist while the fist is up.
    • Reversing the wrist curls and exercises that involve the wrist can help to strengthen these muscles. The exercises that involve the reverse wrist curls can be done in three sets of 12 while having periods of rests in between.[1]
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    Work on wrist flexor stretches. The ligaments in the wrist can tear if the wrist is bent backward more than it is used to stretching. Because of this, it is advisable to practice stretches where the fingers are moved towards the back of the arm. When you do this stretch correctly, you'll feel the impact of the stretch slightly below your wrist.
    • Hold up your hand like you're about to give a high five. With your other hand, push your fingers back toward your arm, keeping your hand and fingers straight.The practice should be done in gradual progression, slowly pushing back closer and closer to your arm, but never feeling pain.
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    Do wrist extensor stretches, too. This involves engaging in stretching exercises that are similar to stretches of the wrist flexors, but instead of being bent back, the wrist is stretched in the other direction.[4] But remember, stretch until you feel pain; don't try to stretch through it.
    • This stretch should be held for twenty seconds and can be repeated three times while having periods of rest in between the stretches. Increase the progress gradually, bending your hand closer and closer to your arm. When you feel discomfort, stop.
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    Do lever grips and wrist curls. This is another set of exercises that can strengthen your wrist flexors. The wrist flexor is the muscle that extends from the palm to the elbow. Strengthening these muscles involves moving the fingers to the direction of the forearm, done by flexing the wrist. Make a fist, and bend your hand in every direction, making full rotations.
    • The exercises should be done in sets of three while having a resting period of three minutes in between each set. The lever grip exercises and the wrist curl should be done as a set of 12 each, while the wrist roller exercises can be completed as a full set at once.[5]
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    Take to the "prayer position." Stretching exercises protect your wrist from injury by strengthening the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the wrist bones and cartilage. To strengthen the inside of your wrist, consider the prayer position:
    • Press your palms together while keeping your wrists aligned with your forearms at a 180 degree angle.
    • Hold on to this position for 5 seconds. Release and repeat this up to 20 times.
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    Do wrist flexes. Hold a pair of dumbbells to help target the flexor muscles in the wrist. Stand with your feet close together with your forearms in a resting position. Hold the dumbbell firmly and slowly swivel your wrist bending it back and forth. Repeat 10-12 times.
    • Stop the any wrist exercise if you feel sharp or stinging pain while doing strength training or stretching exercise, especially when working with dumbbells. Go to a physical therapist or consult your physician for advice if pain is present.

Sources and Citations

  1. 1.01.1Cartwright, L., & Pitney, W. A. (2011). Fundamentals of athletic training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
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Categories: Accuracy | First Aid and Emergencies