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How do I Treat a Sore Wrist?

By Phil Shepley
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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The treatment of a sore wrist can be tricky, especially since there can be several different causes of this common problem, and not all treatments might work exactly the same or as well as one another. Persistent wrist pain, as with any other continuing ailment, may warrant a trip to the doctor for a better diagnosis and for a more specific cure. Once healed, it may also be necessary to take proper precautions to prevent more wrist pain in the future.

There are practically as many causes of wrist pain as there are ways to use your hand, and the level of pain can range from slight discomfort to severe pain, and even to loss of movement of the wrists and hands. Further complicating matters, there may be other preexisting conditions such as arthritis or previous broken bones. The first step to treating a sore wrist must be to accurately determine the cause of the pain.

Severe wrist trauma, for example, may have led to a sprain, fracture or ligament tear, which will typically result in swelling, bruising, disfigurement and limited movement. For these types of wrist injuries, it is essential to visit a hospital or even an emergency room in order to begin proper treatment, since left alone they have the potential of becoming much worse. Basic types of treatment will be pain medication, ice or splints, but a wrist that is sore due to a break or a ligament tear will more typically need a cast, or even surgery, when the wrist is not healing on its own.

Other types of sore wrist problems are more elusive and ongoing. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a highly reported cause of wrist pain due to a nerve that has been compressed from a variety of activities. It has several symptoms, including numbness, weakness, and sharp pains, all emanating from the wrist to the hand and arm. Since this ailment usually has been caused by repetitive actions of the wrists, its treatment requires giving the wrists a break from these types of activities, or at least making changes in the way they are done. A splint can help also, as it will limit actions that aggravate the pain, and a doctor may recommend pain medication or, in some cases, cortisone shots into the affected area.

Arthritis is another common ailment that can worsen the pain and numbness from a sore wrist through the breakdown of wrist cartilage. Along with anti-inflammatory drugs and surgery, a doctor will typically prescribe a regiment of wrist rehabilitation for wrists that are sore due to arthritis or from any of the other causes. There are many exercises that are designed to gently stretch and strengthen ligaments and cartilage of the wrists while they lessen the pain. Other notable types of physical therapy for the wrists may include massages and medicated soaks to restore partial, if not full, function of the wrists and hands.

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Discussion Comments
By anon317417 — On Feb 02, 2013

I think I sprained my wrist years ago snowboarding but never had any treatment. I'm doing a labor job now and the pain has returned as I am constantly using it for 10 hours at work. I'm feeling numbness and some sharp pains. Any exercises that may help? I started wearing a brace more, too. I may have to train my left hand.

By anon314585 — On Jan 18, 2013

I tripped on a curb the other day and hurt my wrist really bad. I had an x-ray and there were no broken bones, but the pain and swelling are getting worse. I have had a fractured wrist before and the pain feels very similar.

By burcidi — On Dec 15, 2012

@anamur-- I do not have Carpal Tunnel but my dad does and I know how debilitating it can be.

Has your doctor given you any topical creams or sent you for physical therapy? There are some physical therapy exercises that help with a sore wrist from Carpal Tunnel. I also recommend that you use analgesic topical creams to numb the pain.

My dad uses camphor cream which helps a lot. Camphor cream is also great for arthritis, so if you have arthritis in your wrist, it will help for that as well.

My mom also gently massages his hands and wrist sometimes and he says that helps too. So there are several different wrist pain treatment options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

By serenesurface — On Dec 15, 2012

I'm suffering from hand and wrist pain due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I have taken a break from activity but it hasn't improved. I don't know what else to do. Anyone else here suffering from this condition?

By burcinc — On Dec 14, 2012

I had a sore wrist all week last week. I was moving and I think I just bent it the wrong way while lifting something.

The soreness wasn't getting better because I kept using my wrist. So I got one of those wrist bandages from the pharmacy and wore it on my wrist. It limited movement and helped my wrist heal. The soreness was gone in a few days after that.

So for soreness caused by movement, I do recommend those wrist bandages.

By myharley — On Nov 09, 2012

I have arthritis in my hands and some days are worse than others. Sometimes the pain settles in my fingers and other times in my wrists. If my wrists are really sore I will wrap them with a bandage. This helps keep my hands stable and keeps me from moving my wrist in a way that causes me pain.

By julies — On Nov 09, 2012
I sprained my wrist playing volleyball and had to wear a wrist splint for a while. Of course this was my right wrist and I am right handed, so it made things challenging.

I knew as soon as it happened that it was going to be pretty sore. It started swelling up right away even though I was able to get ice on it. Pain relievers helped with the pain at first and eventually it just kind of became a dull ache.

If I moved my wrist the wrong way I would have a sharp pain. I was surprised this took as long as it did to heal. On cold damp days, I still get some aching in this wrist even though the sprain happened several years ago.

By honeybees — On Nov 08, 2012

@John57 -- I am also working on the computer all day long, and there are a few things you can do to help with your wrist pain symptoms. One thing I did was make my workplace ergonomically friendly. I also have a mouse pad with a raised area where I can rest my wrist when I am using my mouse. I think getting a different mouse pad is one thing that really made a big difference for me.

By John57 — On Nov 07, 2012

I think I am getting carpal tunnel in my wrist because I have a lot of hand and wrist pain in my right hand. I am on the computer all day long and am either typing or using my mouse to navigate.

At the end of a long day my right wrist is sore and painful. Usually after a few hours of rest, it feels much better, but I do the same thing all over again the next day and it never really has a chance to heal.

By panda2006 — On Jan 18, 2011

Sometimes wrist swelling can be helped with heating pads as well as ice. If swelling stays even after pain has gone away, I know some people who have also had good results with things like massage.

By recapitulate — On Jan 17, 2011

If the pain is acute, it might be broken. In general, though, I would say ice it and take some ibuprofen and call it a day. if that does not make it go away in a few days, or it starts to swell and won't stop, go to a doctor.

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