Most of us don’t think much about our wrists until they hurt. But they’re delicate and complicated structures, made up of eight small bones and four joints. “We put a lot of force through our hands,” says Doreen M. Stiskal, chair and associate professor of physical therapy at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. “We push off from chairs, push open heavy doors, and lean our wrists on sharp edges of laptops.”
Such overuse, plus arthritis, injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition caused by a pinched nerve that can lead to numbness and tingling) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can all lead to wrist pain. But certain remedies can help. Below are a few.
Ice. Stiskal suggests running cold water on a sore wrist or placing an ice pack around it for up to 15 minutes at a time. Ice numbs pain, reduces swelling and calms inflammation
Heat. Use heat before activity, says Stiskal. It loosens muscles and increases nourishing blood flow to the area. Try a heat pack for up to 15 minutes at a time.
Pain relievers. Try pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), suggests Dr. Jennifer Baima, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and staff physiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass.
Topical NSAIDs may lessen pain as well, as can topical pain relievers like Bengay or Icy Hot. But don’t use both topical and oral pain relievers, warns Baima: They contain some similar ingredients so you could overdose. Over time, NSAIDs can also cause stomach upset and should not be used by people with heart conditions.
Duloxetine (Cymbalta), an antidepressant, or pregabalin (Lyrica), may help relieve nerve-related pain like that of carpel tunnel syndrome, says Baima.
Corticosteroid injections. Your doctor may recommend an injection of cortisone into your wrist, says Baima. Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory that usually begins working within several days, easing discomfort for several weeks. “The more shots you get, however, the less they work,” says Baima.
Exercise. Stiskal recommends straightening your arms, then flexing the palms up and away from you, your wrists fully flexed, as if you are about to push open a heavy door. Then drop your hands down, flex your wrists the other way, so that your palms are facing your chest. This exercise stretches the muscles and tendons of the wrists.
Baima suggest keeping a rubber ball handy to squeeze periodically. This helps maintain flexibility in your wrists and fingers.
Supports. Wrist braces, wraps, or splints may be helpful, says Stiskal. “But because wrists have so many possible problems, it’s best to see your healthcare providers so that she or he can pick the best support option for you.
Stiskal also recommends buying a computer keyboard or computer wrist rest designed to lessen stress on the wrist.