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Wrist Sprain in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is a wrist sprain?

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

What are the signs and symptoms of a wrist sprain?

  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Bruising or changes in skin color
  • Popping sound in your child's wrist when he or she moves it

How is a wrist sprain diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how your child injured his or her wrist. The provider will examine your child's wrist and hand and ask about his or her symptoms. Your child may need x-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan of his or her wrist. Your child may be given liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not let your child enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body.

How is a wrist sprain treated?

Treatment depends on how severe your child's sprain is. He or she may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • A splint or cast helps support your child's wrist and prevent more damage.
  • Surgery may be needed if your child's wrist sprain is severe. Arthroscopy may be done to examine the inside of your child's wrist joint and repair ligament damage. Arthroscopy uses a scope that is inserted through a small incision. Your child may need open surgery to reconnect torn ligaments to the bone.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended. A physical therapist teaches your child exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

How can I help manage my child's symptoms?

  • Have your child rest his or her wrist for at least 48 hours. Your child should avoid activities that cause pain.
  • Apply ice on your child's 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 child's wrist. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Compress your child's wrist with an elastic bandage. This will help decrease swelling, support your child's wrist, and help it heal. Have your child wear his or her wrist wrap as directed. The elastic bandage should be snug but not tight.
    How to Wrap an Elastic Bandage
  • Elevate your child's wrist above the level of his or her heart as often as possible. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your child's wrist on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
    Elevate Arm

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has severe pain or swelling.
  • Your child's injured wrist is red or has red streaks spreading from the injured area.
  • Your child has new trouble moving his or her hands, fingers, or wrist.
  • Your child's wrist, hand, or fingers feel cold or numb.

When should I call my child's doctor?

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

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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

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