There are many causes of wrist pain. You can often ease the pain yourself. But talk to your GP if the pain does not improve.

How you can ease wrist pain

If you see your GP about pain in your wrist, they'll usually suggest you try these things:

Do

  • rest your wrist when you can

  • put an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on your wrist for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • take paracetamol to ease the pain

  • take off any jewellery if your hand looks swollen

  • stop or cut down activities that are causing the pain – for example, typing, using vibrating tools for work, or playing an instrument

  • wear a splint to support your wrist and ease pain, especially at night – you can get these at most pharmacies and supermarkets

  • think about using gadgets or tools to make difficult or painful tasks easier – for example, to open jars or chop vegetables

  • think about getting a soft pad to support your wrist when typing

Don't

  • do not use ibuprofen in the first 48 hours after an injury

  • do not use heat packs or have hot baths for the first 2 to 3 days after an injury

  • do not lift heavy objects or grip anything too tightly

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • the best splint to support your wrist and ease pain – flexible rubber splints are available if you still need to use your wrist
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if:

the pain is severe or stopping you doing normal activities

the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back

the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks

you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your hand or wrist

you have diabetes – hand problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

Non-urgent advice: Go to your local injury unit or nearest ED if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of the injury
  • are not able to move your wrist or hold things
  • have a wrist that's changed shape or colour, such as blue or white

These might be signs of a broken wrist.

Common causes of wrist pain

Wrist pain is often caused by bruising or injuring your wrist.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing the pain in your wrist.

Common causes of wrist pain

Symptoms Possible cause
Symptoms Pain, swelling and bruising, difficult to move wrist or grip anything Possible cause sprained wrist
Symptoms Pain, swelling and stiffness at the base of the finger that lasts a long time, it may be hard to move fingers and thumb, you may have a lump Possible cause tendonitis (de Quervain's disease) or arthritis
Symptoms Aching pain that's worse at night, numbness or pins and needles, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping Possible cause carpal tunnel syndrome
Symptoms Smooth lump near a joint or tendon, may be painful Possible cause ganglion cyst
Symptoms Sudden, sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury Possible cause broken finger

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is. Follow the advice on this page and see your GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

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