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Wrist Injury

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a wrist injury?

A wrist injury is damage to the tissues of your wrist joint. Examples are a fracture, sprain (stretched or torn ligament), or strain (stretched or torn tendon).

What are the signs and symptoms of a wrist injury?

  • Pain, weakness, or numbness in your wrist or hand
  • A feeling of something clicking, popping, or tearing inside your wrist
  • A change in the shape of your wrist, hand, or fingers
  • Trouble moving your wrist or hand

How is a wrist injury diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will check for pain, swelling, or numbness. He or she may check the movement and strength of your wrist. An x-ray, MRI, or CT scan may show if you have broken a bone or other injury. You may be given contrast liquid to help your wrist show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is a wrist injury treated?

Your treatment depends on the type of wrist injury and amount of tissue damage you have. You may need any of the following:

  • A wrist support, such as a cast or splint, will help support your wrist and prevent more damage.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Steroids decrease swelling and pain in your wrist. This may be given as a shot.
  • Surgery may be used to repair a tear or remove injured and loose tissues. A torn ligament may be repaired or replaced. Screws or wires may be used to attach the bones in your wrist together.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest your wrist for 48 hours, or as directed. Avoid activities that cause pain. Ask which activities you should avoid and for how long. Ask when you may return to your regular physical activities or sports. If you start to use your wrist too soon, you may injure it wrist again.
  • Put ice on your wrist to decrease pain and swelling. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Wrap a towel around the bag before you put it on your wrist. Apply ice for 15 minutes every hour, or as directed.
  • Apply compression by wrapping your wrist with an elastic bandage. This will help decrease swelling, support your wrist, and help it heal. Wear your wrist wrap as directed. The bandage should be snug but not so tight that your fingers are numb or tingly.
  • Elevate your wrist above the level of your heart when you sit or lie down. Prop your arm and hand on pillows to keep your wrist elevated comfortably.
  • Go to physical therapy, if directed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen your wrist and improve the range of movement. These exercises may also help decrease your pain.

How can I prevent a wrist injury?

  • Do strengthening exercises. Your healthcare provider or physical therapist may suggest that you do exercises to strengthen your hand and arm muscles. He or she will tell you when to start doing these exercises and how long to continue.
  • Protect your wrists. Wrist guard splints or protective tape can help support your wrist during exercise and sports. These devices may also keep your wrist from bending too far back. Ask for more information about the type of wrist support that you should use.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • The skin on or near your wrist or hand feels cold or turns blue or white.
  • The skin on or near your wrist or hand is tight, raised, and swollen.
  • You have new trouble moving and using your hands, fingers, or wrist.
  • Your wrist, hands, or fingers become swollen, red, numb, or tingle.
  • You have any open wounds that are red, swollen, warm, or have pus coming from them.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • The bruising, swelling, or pain in your wrist gets worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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