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Exercises to Rehab Your Wrist Sprain

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT August 19, 2020 0 Comments

Wrist Ring Grip Exercise

Restoring strength and stability with the right wrist sprain exercises is a surefire way to help you recover as quickly as possible. Once you’ve allowed enough time for initial rest and healing of this common injury, it's time to get started. Keep reading to learn more about stretches and exercises for after a wrist sprain.

Range of Motion Stretches

Wrist range of motion will be the first step in starting a home program when you are ready. This will help restore normal wrist function, reduce stiffness, and is a great warm-up for higher-level wrist exercises when possible.  

Wrist Flexion and Extension

Sit with the arm comfortably supported and the wrist free to move. With the palm facing down toward the floor and fingers in a gentle fist, you will simply be bending and extending the wrist as far as you can comfortably go. Keep the motion slow and controlled. At the top of each direction you can stop and hold it for 1-3 seconds for a further stretch as well.

Alternate 15 times in each direction for up to 2 sets per day.

Wrist Radial and Ulnar Deviation

Your starting position will be the same as it was for wrist flexion and extension with the palm facing down. This time you will be moving the wrist from side to side toward the thumb side and then the pinky side. This is a very small wrist movement so don’t force it. Make sure to keep the wrist in neutral (not bent or extended) throughout the exercise.

Alternate 15 times in each direction for up to 2 sets per day.

Wrist Pronation and Supination

Keep the wrist supported again. This time you will be rotating the wrist and forearm rhythmically. Keep the elbow and shoulder still as you rotate the hand to face the palm up toward the ceiling. Then, reverse the motion and let it rotate down toward the floor. Keep the wrist neutral throughout.

Alternate 15 times in each direction for up to 2 sets per day.

Wrist Strengthening

If wrist range of motion is well tolerated, the next step will be to start rebuilding muscle strength in the wrist. Basically, you will be adding weights or resistance to the range of motion exercises from above. Always start with small weights and progress from there. Grab a 1 pound dumbbell, soup can, or water bottle to get started.

Wrist Flexion

Sit or stand with the forearm supported and wrist free to move. This can be done with a table, your knee or the opposite hand. Hold the weight in your hand with the palm facing up toward the ceiling. Then, lift the palm of the hand up toward the ceiling as you bend the wrist. Make sure the motion is controlled as you return to the starting position and repeat.

Repeat up to 15 times for 2 sets each day.

Wrist Extension

Follow the same set up for supporting the arm as you did with wrist flexion. Now, hold your weight in your hand with your palm facing down toward the floor. Lift the back of the hand up toward the ceiling as you extend the wrist. Keep the range of motion comfortable. Move for a count of 2 in each direction.

Repeat 10-15 times for up to 2 sets each day.

Wrist Radial Deviation

Again, keep your wrist supported as you continue with your strength program like the two exercises above. This time you will turn your wrist so that your thumb is facing up toward the ceiling. The wrist movement is a small sideways bend as you lift your thumb side of the wrist up toward the ceiling. Keep the wrist neutral (not bent or extended) as you complete this small move.

Repeat 10-15 times for up to 2 sets each day.

Wrist Pronation and Supination

You will start in the exact same position as wrist radial deviation above. This time you will be rotating the wrist from side to side while keeping the elbow and upper arm completely still. Simply turn the hand until the palm is facing the ceiling before switching directions so that the palm is now facing the floor. To add further resistance, try using a hammer or holding your weight at the bottom so that most of it is above your fist.

Repeat 10-15 times slowly for up to 2 sets a day.

Grip Exercises

Restoring grip strength is always an important step in regaining wrist function. All of the muscles we use for gripping cross the wrist joint and can cause aggravation if not properly addressed.

Power Squeeze

Grab some therapy putty, a small ball, or rolled towel to address all the muscles in your hand and wrist at once with a powerful squeeze. Place your strengthening tool in your palm and wrap your fingers around it. Then, squeeze as hard you can comfortably and hold for up to 5 seconds at a time.

Repeat 10-15 times for up to 2 sets.

Full Finger Spread

For this one, grab a rubber band, therapy putty or hand extension exerciser to work the back of the hand and fingers. Place the band around the fingers, keeping them as close together as possible to start. Then, spread the fingers apart as far as possible while pushing against the resistance. Hold for 2-3 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position.

Repeat 10-15 times for up to 2 sets each day.

Benefits During Recovery

There are many benefits to starting an exercise program when the time is right, these include:

  • Decreased stiffness in the wrist
  • Increased blood circulation for promoting healing and decreasing bruising
  • Quicker return to previous level of activity
  • Restoring confidence in wrist function
  • Better wrist pain relief
  • Reduced dependence on anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS)
  • Great adjunct with other home treatment options
  • Overall improved quality of life

When to Start Exercising

How long you need to rest and address swelling in the wrist depends on the severity of your injury and symptoms. If starting an exercise program aggravates symptoms significantly, it means you probably did too much to start and need to back off and return to your home treatment remedies before resuming.

  • A low-grade sprain (grade I) will typically require 0-3 days of rest and pain management before initiating simple wrist exercises.
  • A moderate (grade II) sprain will require more rest time. Generally, 3-14 days will be enough. When symptoms of pain and swelling start to decrease you can initiate a  program and monitor your symptoms for feedback.
  • A complete tear (grade III) will most likely require extensive rest, bracing or wrapping, and potentially surgery. To minimize further risk of instability and injury, adequate rest for 2- 6 weeks is typically warranted. Prior to clearance for wrist exercise from your doctor, you will want to focus on keeping the rest of the arm as mobile as possible.

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between a broken and sprained wrist. Learn more here.

Exercising a Sprained Wrist Safely

Wrist sprains can leave you feeling out of sorts as you rest, heal, and initiate an exercise program. Understanding where to start and how to progress can give you the confidence you need to properly heal and recover as quickly as possible. If you experience exacerbation or change in symptoms such as severe pain, wrist instability or nerve symptoms, seek medical advice from your doctor immediately for further guidance to maximize your recovery process.






Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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