Wrist Sprain

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments or capsule that holds a joint together. There are no broken bones. Most sprains take about 3 to 6 weeks to heal. If it's a severe sprain where the ligament is completely torn, it can take months to recover.

Most wrist sprains are treated with a splint, wrist brace, or elastic wrap for support. Severe sprains may require surgery.

Home care

  • Keep your arm elevated to reduce pain and swelling. This is very 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. To make an ice pack, put ice cube in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a thin towel before using. Continue to use ice packs for relief of pain and swelling as needed. As the ice melts, be careful to avoid getting your wrap, splint, or cast wet. After 48 hours, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, or alternate ice and heat. 

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen may work better than acetaminophen

    If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or take a blood thinner, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • If you were given a splint or brace, wear it for the time advised by your provider.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Any X-rays you had today don’t show any broken bones, breaks, or fractures. 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 doctor. You may need a repeat X-ray. If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

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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