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Wrist pain

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

How you can ease wrist pain yourself

If you see a 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: See a 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
What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work
Information:

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus

Urgent advice: Go to an urgent treatment centre or A&E 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.

Find an urgent treatment centre

What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing things like going to work

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

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

You can also read about pain in other areas of your hand.

Page last reviewed: 1 May 2019
Next review due: 1 May 2022