While wrist pain is often caused by sprains or fractures from sudden injuries, everyday activities like typing, using a smartphone or gardening can also lead to pain in the wrist. Read our guide and learn how to treat or prevent injuries. Home treatments usually ease the pain, but you should seek medical advice if the pain doesn't improve.

Identifying a wrist injury

Connecting your hand to your forearm, the wrist is flexible and allows the hand to move in different ways. The wrist consists of several small joints, not one big one. It has two large forearm bones, and eight small bones called carpals. They surround a tube called the carpal tunnel, which has tendons and a nerve inside.

If you or a child is experiencing wrist pain, it can be difficult to identify the type and/or the severity, so it’s important that the wrist is examined and attended to by a qualified physician as a priority. This is especially important if your wrist is warm and you have a fever. Only a qualified physician can provide an accurate and reliable assessment of the injury.

Symptoms of wrist pain

Fractures, sprains and tendon inflammation are the most common types of wrist injuries. Depending of the severity of the injury, symptoms of a wrist injury can include:

  • Tenderness, bruising, warmth and swelling at the wrist
  • Distorted joints and an inability to move the wrist
  • The feeling of a popping or tearing sensation in the wrist
  • Difficulty making a fist or gripping objects, suggesting a decrease in wrist strength
  • Sudden numbness or tingling
  • A clicking sound when moving the wrist, which can be more severe after periods of rest
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Wrist pain causes

Wrist pain varies depending on the cause, and the specific location of the pain can indicate the reason for your symptoms. Here are some potential wrist injuries, conditions and disorders:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: This is a common cause of wrist pain where swelling in the wrist tightens around the nerve. It typically causes a tingling sensation, especially at night.
  • Tendinitis: Inflammation of a tendon could be a result of repetitive wrist action, for example from hitting a tennis ball. This can cause stress fractures, especially if the action is repeated for a long time.
  • Osteoarthritis: Over time, the cartilage that cushions the end of your bones deteriorates and causes a pain similar to toothache. This is common in the wrist and usually affects people who have injured their wrist in the past.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This disorder occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. Both wrists are commonly affected.
  • Gout: A build-up of uric acid in your joints causes this form of arthritis.
  • Ganglion cyst: Pain may be a result of a smooth lump near a joint or tendon.

Sprained wrist

Though there could be an underlying cause of a sore wrist, the most common cause of wrist injuries result from a fall onto an outstretched hand. This can stretch the ligaments beyond their limits as the wrist twists or bends back toward the forearm.

Sprained wrists range from mild to severe, depending on the ligament damage. This can cause pain, bruising and swelling, affecting the range of motion or ability to grip anything.
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Wrist pain treatment

Medical care isn't required for all wrist injuries, and treatment depends on the cause of the pain and severity. Often resting the wrist and giving it time to heal will reduce inflammation and pain. Immediately after the injury has occurred, apply the RICER method to the affected area:

  • Rest: Avoid putting weight on the injured area and rest the wrist. Remove any jewellery if the wrist looks swollen. For the first few days try and avoid movement where possible.
  • Ice: Apply a bag of ice or frozen vegetables (wrapped in a tea towel or cloth) to the injured area for 20 minutes every two hours to help reduce any swelling. Paracetamol will help ease the pain as well.
  • Compression: Use a cohesive bandage on the injured area. Compression reduces bleeding and swelling. Don't wrap the bandage too tight because your wrist may become numb.
  • Elevation: Elevate the injured area and rest on a soft surface to help stop any bleeding and swelling.
  • Referral: Contact a qualified physician for precise diagnosis, further care and treatment advice.

When to see a doctor

While minor sprained wrists or injuries improve with the RICER method and pain medication, you should visit a hospital if:

  • symptoms persist after three or four days
  • pain becomes more severe or keep returning
  • you cannot carry out normal activities because of the pain
  • you feel a numbness or tingling sensation
  • there is little or no feeling in the hands or fingers
  • you suffer from diabetes - hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

A qualified physician may take a wrist X-ray to see if any bones are broken, and surgery may be required.

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Preventing wrist pain

Wrist pain can be difficult to prevent, since causal injuries are usually caused by accidents. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the chances of injuring your wrist. When playing sports you should always make an effort to exercise safely and be prepared.

  • Be careful when walking or exercising in wet or slippery conditions.
  • If you spend long periods of time typing, take regular breaks and keep your wrist in a relaxed, neutral position. Consider using an ergonomic keyboard or gaming mouse mat to support your wrist.
  • If you use your hands a lot for work, try resting them every so often. Wrist flexes and extensions can help aching wrists.
  • Train or exercise in appropriate non-slip footwear.
  • Wear an Elastoplast Sport Adjustable Wrist Support¬†for relief and support during both sport and for everyday use, or an Elastoplast Wrap Around Wrist Support. These may help prevent the wrist from bending backward during a fall.
  • Remove trip hazards in the home by increasing the amount of light in your living space, or installing handrails in your bathroom and stairways.
  • Think about purchasing gadgets or tools for difficult or painful tasks like opening jars or chopping vegetables.

Using a wrist support

Elastoplast offer a number of products to help you protect and care for sore wrists. Using specific protection like a wrist support or wrist brace provides external help to ligaments without limiting the normal range of motion or function. During exercise in particular, a wrist support provides additional protection for the bones and maintains wrist alignment, reducing pain and discomfort. Wrist supports also help patients carry out day-to-day tasks without interrupting the healing process.

Both the Elastoplast Wrap Around Wrist Support and Elastoplast Adjustable Wrist Support are designed to provide reliable support for weak or injured wrists and help to limit wrist motion. These enable a custom fit and are made of soft, breathable material for all-day comfort. The Adjustable Wrist Support features an adjustable strap and a thumb loop for ease of application.

Wrap around wrist support
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