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Leaflet: How to Treat Your Wrist Injury


Following injury, your wrist may be swollen, bruised and painful due to the damage to the soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, muscles, etc. In order to help the natural healing process, follow the advice below.

During the first 3 days

It is important to rest and elevate the wrist as much as possible to prevent further swelling. Rest with the arm elevated on pillows, ideally with your wrist above the level of your heart. To relieve the pain and swelling, apply a packet of frozen peas or crushed ice in a damp tea towel to the painful area. For maximum effect, apply for up to 20 minutes, every 2 hours. Cold can burn, so remove if uncomfortable. You may have  been provided with a splint. This should be removed when resting and at night. Check that your shoulder and elbow are moving fully. Once the pain and swelling begin to ease, start gently moving the wrist and hand to prevent stiffness. Move into discomfort and not pain.

After 3 days

If you have not already started to move your wrist, then it is now essential that you do so to prevent future stiffness.

During the first 3 days

Pain relief medication can help you to reduce the pain allowing you to undertake any suggested exercises and movements of the injury. Moving will help ease the pain and speed up your recovery significantly. Simple pain relief medications such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are often all that is required. Please read the medication instructions before taking anything.

Exercise 1

Sitting, grasp your injured arm well above the wrist so that your palm is face down towards the floor. Slowly move the hand up as far as possible, then stretch down as far as possible. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 2

In the same position as above, move the hand towards the thumb side of the wrist and then towards the little finger side. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 3

Combine the above movements and move the wrist in as large a circle as possible. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 4

Tuck your elbow into your side, turn your palm up and then down. Move as far as possible in each direction. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 5

Make a tight fist with your fingers and then stretch the fingers out as far as possible.

For the hand

Exercise 6

With your palm facing upwards, stretch your thumb across toward the base of the little finger.  Then stretch out to the side as far as possible. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 7

Continue moving the thumb around in circles, stretching as far as possible. Repeat 10 times.

As each day goes by, you should be able to move the wrist more freely and with lessening discomfort. The amount of movement should eventually be the same as that on your unaffected side. Start returning to light activities, steadily building up the daily use and progressing to more demanding activities. It may be some weeks before full strength returns. Depending on how badly your wrist is sprained, it may take  between 4 – 8 weeks to recover, sometimes longer.

Visit the Minor Injuries Unit webpage for more information about this service.

Date of creation: May 2018
Date of review: May 2020
URN: 102