Wrist sprain can be managed at home with care and medications, but getting the injury evaluated by a doctor before beginning treatment is recommended. If there is no fracture or significant instability of sprained wrist, it is managed by the "RICE" method. RICE method of treatment for sprained wrists is as follows:
- Rest: Rest in the first 24-48 hours decreases pain, limits further injury and speeds healing. You should start to use the involved wrist gradually and avoid activities that cause pain. If needed, your doctor may give a wrist splint for a few days as it helps to control the symptoms.
- Ice: Application of ice for the first 48 hours after injury for about 20 minutes at every 3-4 hours can help to minimise swelling and pain. To make an ice pack, use a bag of frozen vegetables (peas or corn) or wrap few ice cubes in a thick towel or poly bag. Ice application or cold compressors for more than 20 minutes at a time does not help to heal the sprained wrist any faster. In fact, it may cause damage to the tissues.
- Compression: Use of compression when elevating the sprained wrist during the early treatment can control symptoms (pain and swelling). An elastic compression bandage can be used to wrap the wrist. Wrap it snugly from the base of the fingers to the top of the forearm in a way that every turn overwraps by one-half of the width of the wrap. The wrap should be snug, but not excessively tight to cut off circulation to the hand and wrist.
- Elevate: Elevation of the limb above the level of heart can decrease the swelling and pain. At night, you can place pillows under your arm to elevate it.
Medications: Use of simple analgesics such as acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen can help relieve pain. If the injury is severe i.e. involves complete tear of the ligaments or fractures of the bone, the treatment will be different from the one used for a simple sprained wrist.
Other treatment: Other treatments that may be used to treat wrist sprain include:
- Bracing: You may be advised to use a brace to immobilise your wrist, especially, when straining the wrist while doing something such as playing.
- Immobilisation: In case of severe sprain, a cast may be recommended for two to three weeks.
- Rehabilitation Exercises: To improve flexibility and range of motion of the wrist after sprain, you may be recommended to see a physical therapist.
- Surgery: For a broken wrist or to repair a torn ligament completely, you will need surgery.