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Teri Lou, December 19 2022

Wrist Ligament Injuries

Learn common injuries & treatments for wrist ligaments.

Wrist injuries to the ligaments can cause mild to moderate pain and significantly impact lifestyle. In addition, some ligament problems require corrective surgery to recoverability to the wrist as the ligament may have torn off completely. Find out the symptoms, how to treat a wrist injury and what to expect for healing times to make an informed decision about your health. 

Portland Urgent Care is here to help you with a team of medical staff trained to treat injuries and sprains. From pain management to a recovery plan, we can help you heal your wrist. First, let’s take a look at some common questions about wrist ligament injuries. 

What does wrist ligament pain feel like?

Wrists ligament pain can feel like a burning sensation. Others have felt a throbbing sensation or intermittent ache. The level of severity can affect the amount of discomfort. Alternatively, the pain may be close to the center of the wrist, close to the thumb. 

As the ligaments stretch and cover the bones of the hand, movement can increase the pain. Furthermore, certain movements can exasperate the discomfort. Often wrist pain includes swelling of the wrist as fluids collect around the joint and tissue spaces of the injury. 

Finally, a wrist sprain may feel warm to the touch and include bruising or weakness. Add in a loss of motion, and pain can minimize the degree available to move. A popping or tearing feeling might be present too. 

What are common wrist ligament injuries?

The two most common wrist ligament injuries focus on the two main ligaments: the scapholunate ligament and the TFCC or triangular fibrocartilage complex located on the outside of the wrist. Furthermore, a damaged ligament may pull off tiny particles of a bone leading to an avulsion fracture. Another potential wrist ligament injury is to the lunotriquetral ligament that is in charge of stabilizing the wrist. A tear to this ligament can cause pain and instability. 

Sprains refer to the ligaments, while fractures refer to bones. Additionally, individuals can experience tendonitis or arthritis to the tendons, which can then affect the ligaments. Finally, as the wrist is such a small location, damage to any of the parts, including the ligaments, tendons, bones, and nerves, can affect the other components. 

What happens if you tear a ligament in your wrist?

Tearing a ligament can set your lifestyle back for a few weeks to as the wound heals. Ligaments help to stabilize the wrist and keep the bones in the proper alignment, further assisting the stability of the joint. The first thing you will notice with a ligament tear in the wrist is an instability as the ligaments are not prepared to support wrist bones. 

What are the symptoms of a torn ligament in the wrist?

There are three grades of damage when it comes to a torn ligament. Grade 1 refers to a stretched ligament with microscopic tears, and it’s the mildest version. A grade 2 includes partially torn ligaments in the wrist. Finally, grade 3 ligaments are completely torn and no longer connected to the bone where they are supposed to be attached. 

Each grade will have varying symptoms, but for the most part, you can expect the following: instability, tenderness, warmth, a popping or tearing sound, weakness, and difficulty moving the wrist. Additionally, the wrist may be swollen or in an abnormal position. Bruising is common with trauma as well. 

How is a torn ligament diagnosed?

Torn ligaments cannot be diagnosed at home. Therefore, visiting a doctor is essential to allow for medical imaging scans such as x-rays, CT, and MRI scans to completely assess the wrist problem. Next, doctors may conduct a study including nerve impulses and how they travel to different parts of the body.

Moreover, doctors can perform a procedure called an arthroscopy which involves a small cut on the wrist where the doctor inserts a tiny camera. This allows doctors to assess the issue and accurately diagnose the problem. The doctor will also look at the external wrist for diagnosis. 

Along with the examination, doctors will ask for your medical history and symptoms. Some doctors may determine a blood test is necessary too. Lastly, doctors will check for a range of motion and strength to assess the severity of the injury to the wrist. 

Will X-ray show a torn ligament in the wrist?

No, a torn ligament on the wrist will not show up on an x-ray as x-rays focus on bones. However, doctors may use an x-ray to rule out a broken bone in the wrist. Once they eliminate possibilities, it’s easier for doctors to diagnose a ligament tear. Doctors may also use an MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or an arthrogram injected into the wrist joint to further help diagnose a wrist injury. 

How do you treat a torn ligament in the wrist?

Grade 1 and 2 traumas to the wrist are treated with rest and relaxation along with limiting mobility and weight on the wrist. However, grade 3 traumas to the wrist require surgery to reattach the ligament that came away from the bone completely. Without surgery or other extreme treatments, a completely torn ligament will not reattach to the bone. 

The RICE treatment is a commonly used technique for grades one and two, which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation. After treatment, physical therapy will help you to learn how to use your wrist by increasing mobility and minimizing stiffness. 

Do torn wrist ligaments heal on their own?

Both minor and moderate ligament tears can heal on their own with the RICE practice. You do still need to allow the wrist to rest for at least 48 hours and immobilize as needed. Ice packs can help to reduce pain and swelling, and heat can provide comfort after the ice. 

However, grade three trauma rarely heals on its own as the ligament has a complete separation from the wrist. Additionally, wrist ligament issues can take longer to heal because of how dependent people are on their wrists and hands. Keeping the wrist immobilized can be very difficult. 

How long does it take for ligaments to heal in the wrist?

Non-surgical wrist sprains can take as little as one to two weeks to heal, depending on the severity of the tear. Overall, most wrist injuries take between 2 and 10 weeks to heal. With surgery, the recovery time can range from eight to 12 weeks or even up to a full year, depending on how many ligaments were harmed. 

The most important steps to healing are complete immobility until the doctor says otherwise. If you do not follow the right procedures, you could end up harming the wrist again, and this could lead to extended pain and even arthritis. If possible, always visit a physiotherapist to prevent re-damaging the wrist and learn the right moves for a smooth recovery. 

After a couple of days, the swelling should go down, and then you can switch to heat and go back to ice as needed. Use external wraps to protect the wrist from further damage, such as a splint or a brace. Do not stop wearing an external wrap until your doctor says to avoid further injury. Finally, avoid using the injured wrist or hand as much as possible to avoid further damage. You may find you need to use pillows at night to help stabilize your wrist while sleeping. 

When do you need surgery for a torn ligament in your wrist?

The goal of surgery is to replace the torn parts and ensure the stability and strength of the wrist. A grade three torn ligament may require surgery to restore the function and reattach the ligament to the bone. Because of the disconnect between the tissue and blood supply, surgery may be needed for full functionality. An ACL rupture may require reconstruction, and then the healing process can begin. 

Surgery may be necessary when non-surgical methods do not work to heal the injury. Surgery can include sutures, pins, screws, and other specialized devices to repair the damage to the ligament. Sometimes doctors can use other soft tissues like tendons to reroute the ligament. Larger injuries may require a partial fusion, complete fusion, or a wrist replacement, but these are usually trauma-related and not the typical outcome. 

Why visit an urgent care for injuries?

Wrists connect your arms to your hands and allow for the necessary motions to function throughout the day. A sprain to a wrist ligament can significantly impact your life which is why if you suspect an issue with your wrist, you should seek medical attention. 

Not only does urgent care cost a fraction of the cost of an emergency room, but they often have faster care, same-day or walk-in appointments, and work with many insurance companies. Furthermore, at urgent care, you have access to a doctor who can order and perform the necessary tests to diagnose a wrist injury and start a treatment plan for a full recovery. 


Wrist injuries can significantly impact life negatively by making everything more complicated and uncomfortable. When you feel wrist pain, it’s best to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis, pain management, and an effective treatment plan for a full recovery. Ligament pain can even be severe enough to require surgery for proper blood flow, strength, and stability. 

At Portland Urgent Care, you can receive medical exams, tests, and a treatment plan to help with recovery. Along with medical doctors, our team includes chiropractors, physiotherapists, injury rehabilitation, acupuncturist, and massage therapist to help with a full recovery. Call and schedule an appointment today and get your wrist on the road to recovery. 

For more information on injuries, see our related blogs:

Common Causes & Effects of Neck Injuries

Neck Injury Treatment

Types of Back Injuries

How Do You Know If Your Back Injury Is Serious?

Types of Ankle Injuries

Common Types & Causes of Knee Injuries

How To Treat & Recover From Knee Injuries

Wrist Injuries Causes & Treatment

Difference Between Sprains vs Strains

What Is A Laceration Wound?

Written by

Teri Lou

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