Hand Sprain

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that hold a joint together. There are no broken bones. Sprains take 3 to 6 weeks or longer to heal. A sprained hand may be treated with a splint or elastic wrap for support.

Home care

  • Keep your arm raised (elevated) to reduce pain and swelling. This is most important during the first 48 hours.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 6 hours. You should do this for the first 24 to 48 hours. You can make an ice pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes. Then wrap it with a thin towel to protect your skin and prevent skin damage. Don't apply ice directly on your skin. Keep using ice packs to ease pain and swelling as needed. As the ice melts, be careful to avoid getting any wrap or splint wet. After 48 to 72 hours or as directed by your healthcare provider, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, or switch between ice and heat.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have long-term (chronic) liver or kidney disease, ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or take blood thinners, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • If you were given a splint or elastic wrap, wear it until your pain improves.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. Sometimes fractures don’t show up on the first X-ray. Bruises and sprains can sometimes hurt as much as a fracture. These injuries can take time to heal completely. If your symptoms don’t improve or they get worse, talk with your healthcare provider. You may need a repeat X-ray or other tests.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain or swelling increases

  • Fingers or hand becomes cold, blue, numb, or tingly

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