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Wrist Sprain


A wrist sprain

happens when one or more ligaments in your wrist stretch or tear. Ligaments are tough tissues that connect bones and keep them in place, and support your joints.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Bruising or changes in skin color
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Popping sound in your wrist when you move it
  • Swelling and tenderness

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe pain or swelling.
  • Your injured wrist is red or has red streaks spreading from the injured area.
  • You have new trouble moving your hands, fingers, or wrist.
  • Your wrist, hand, or fingers feel cold or numb.
  • Your fingernails turn blue or gray.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • Your sprain does not get better within 2 weeks.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a wrist sprain

depends on how severe your sprain is. You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. 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.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • A splint or cast helps support your wrist and prevent more damage. Wear your splint as directed. Ask for instructions on how to bathe while wearing a splint or cast.
  • Surgery may be needed if you have a severe sprain. Arthroscopy may be done to examine the inside of your wrist joint and repair ligament damage. Arthroscopy uses a scope that is inserted through a small incision. You may need open surgery to reconnect torn ligaments to the bone.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Care for a wrist sprain:

  • Rest your wrist for at least 48 hours. Avoid activities that cause pain.
  • Ice your wrist for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you put it on your wrist. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Compress 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 elastic bandage should be snug but not tight.
    How to Wrap an Elastic Bandage
  • Elevate your wrist above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your wrist on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Learn more about Wrist Sprain (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.