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Wrist Sprain Treatment

Information About the Treatment of Sprained Wrists

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Updated May 30, 2014

Treatment of a sprained wrist (in cases where there is no fracture or significant instability) is the "RICE" method. If you are unsure of the severity of your sprained wrist, talk to your doctor before beginning any treatment or rehab. The following is an explanation of the RICE method of treatment for sprained wrists:
  • Rest:
    The first 24-48 hours after the injury is considered a critical treatment period and activities need to be curtailed. Gradually use the involved wrist as much as tolerated, by try to avoid any activities that cause pain. Using a wrist splint in the early stages following injury will help control your symptoms.

  • Ice:
    For the first 48 hours post-injury, ice the sprained wrist 20 minutes at a time every 3-4 hours. The ice pack can be a bag of frozen vegetables (peas or corn), allowing you to be able to re-use the bag. Another popular treatment method is to fill paper cups with water then freeze the cup. Use the frozen cube like an ice cream cone, peeling away paper as the ice melts. Do NOT ice a wrist sprain for more than 20 minutes at a time!! You will not be helping heal the sprained wrist any faster, and you can cause damage to the tissues! Learn how to ice an injury here...

  • Compression:
    Use compression when elevating the sprained wrist in early treatment. Using an Ace bandage, wrap the wrist from the base of the fingers all the way up to the top of the forearm, overlapping the elastic wrap by one-half of the width of the wrap. The wrap should be snug, but not cutting off circulation to the hand and wrist. So, if your fingers become cold, blue, or tingle, re-wrap!

  • Elevate:
    Keep your sprained wrist higher than your heart as often as possible. Elevate at night by placing pillows under your arm.

More severe wrist sprain injuries, including complete tears of the ligaments and fractures of the bone may need different treatment and rehab than a simple sprained wrist. A broken wrist can lead to arthritis if not adequately treated, and joint instability can require surgery as well. It is important that you see your doctor before beginning treatment or if your symptoms do not steadily improve over time.

Preventing Sprained Wrists

Some activities are such that participants are at significant risk for sustaining a sprained wrist. Wearing protective splints in sports such as rollerblading, street hockey, and snowboarding can help prevent many sprained wrists. While skiing, use a pole that has a low-profile grip, and do not secure the poles in your wrists with tight straps.

Sources:

Morgan WJ, Slowman LS. Acute Hand and Wrist Injuries in Athletes: Evaluation and Management. J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 9, No 6, November/December 2001, 389-400.

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