How do I Treat Wrist Sprains?

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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2020
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When you injure the ligaments in your wrist— either by overstretching them or by tearing them— the resulting injury is called a wrist sprain. Wrist sprains can be a very painful experience and can include symptoms such as bruising and swelling of the wrist. The method used to treat wrist sprains depends on how severe the sprain is. Some sprains can be treated at home, but if you have a severe sprain, then you may need to go to a doctor for treatment options. Some of the methods of treating wrist sprains are the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method, rehabilitation, and surgery.

Mild wrist sprains can be treated at home, but if swelling and pain continue for more than two days despite treatment, you should visit a doctor. One treatment for mild wrist sprains is the RICE method which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. After a sprain has occurred, you should rest the wrist. Try not to do anything with the wrist for two days in order to allow it to heal. Ice is useful for reducing swelling, but it should not be applied to an injury for more than 20 minutes at a time.


Often an elastic compression bandage is placed on the sprained wrist. The bandage should be wrapped tight enough that it can stabilize and compress the area but not so tight that it cuts off the blood flow. The wrist should also be elevated above your heart. Elevating the wrist will help to drain any fluids that will build up as well as reduce swelling. After a few days, you can try to use the wrist but avoid anything that causes pain.

Treating a sprain at home may not be the best option, depending on the type of sprain you have. Wrist sprains are categorized according to their severity. Grade I sprains are characterized by an overstretched ligament and are usually able to be taken care of at home. If there is tearing of the ligament, then you likely have a Grade II sprain. A Grade III sprain is one in which the ligaments are torn all the way through.

It may take a doctor to properly diagnose the different types of sprains, so it may be best to visit one whenever you think you have a sprain despite the severity. Grade II sprains may need to be rendered motionless. In those cases, a doctor can apply a splint to the wrist to keep it still. Grade III sprains may need surgery to properly fix. A doctor can also tell you if you will need rehabilitation — often in the form of wrist exercises — in order to help restore normal function to the wrist.


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Post 2

Never use heat on a sprained wrist! Some old wives' tales suggest that this is a good treatment, but it is not. Heat compresses can cause a sprain to swell even more, and may also make the pain worse.

Post 1

While resting your wrist following a sprain is crucial in order for it to heal, it is more important than ever if you have to have surgery. Many people who have surgery to correct a wrist sprain feel much better even before they are totally healed. This often results in the patient getting back to normal activities too soon, which can then result in the need for additional surgery.

The bottom line is that if you undergo surgery for a wrist sprain, follow your doctor's orders and do not rush back into doing strenuous activities.

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