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How do I Treat a Dislocated Wrist?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Treatment for a dislocated wrist requires immediate first aid measures followed by various care options depending on whether or not surgery is needed. It is important to ensure the patient does not go into shock when an accident causes wrist pain. The wrist should be immobilized as soon as possible. Some dislocated wrists can be manipulated back into place, while others need surgery to align the bones properly. Medication is often prescribed to address pain or discomfort.

Manipulation of a dislocated wrist should be done as soon as possible, preferably within six hours. A doctor will attempt to get the bones back into place without surgery. The patient should be kept calm and ice applied to reduce swelling until medical care is available. Elevation of the injured area is also recommended. If the injured wrist cannot be corrected with manipulation, surgery will be required.

Once the wrist has been realigned, it should be soaked in ice water three or four times daily. After 24 hours have passed, heat may be applied if it reduces pain more effectively than ice. An elasticized bandage keeps the wrist in place in between ice or heat applications. Gentle massage can be added to reduce swelling, and light exercise of the surrounding muscles in the hand and arm may promote quicker recovery.

Rehabilitation might be necessary after the wrist has healed. It is important to keep the muscles and ligaments strong through movement. A physical therapist can help a patient regain full motion in the wrist joint.

Sports injuries are a common cause of dislocated wrists. The wrist bones can become misaligned from a fall onto an outstretched hand, especially if the full weight of the body lands on the hand. Football and rugby players risk this type of injury because they are tackled or fall while running, causing a greater impact on the wrist. A dislocated wrist is also seen in gymnastic enthusiasts, but not as often as in people who participate in contact sports.

Pain is usually the first symptom of a dislocated wrist. There may or may not be visible deformity of the bone. The hand could become numb and weak, and the pain will usually increase when the hand is touched. If numbness, swelling, vomiting, or signs of infection occur after treatment, a doctor should be consulted. Drugs used for pain or inflammation might also cause side effects.

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Discussion Comments
By anon936787 — On Mar 03, 2014

I had a weird accident yesterday. I fell on my wrist and popped it out. But when I grabbed it, it popped back in. I had bad swelling and pain. and it feels numb. Should I still visit the doctor? I know it was a dislocation but it's back in. Does it still need medical attention?

By gigges — On Nov 07, 2013

My wrist was dislocated when I was playing football four weeks ago. After treatment, now I can use my hand normally. There is no swelling, but how long will it be until I can play football again?

By ZipLine — On Oct 24, 2013

I had a wrist realigned yesterday. I actually thought that I had broken my wrist but it turned out to be a dislocation. My orthopedic doctor realigned it right away. It wasn't too bad, there was a sharp pain when the bone went back into place but that's it. I felt considerably better right afterward. I have to wear a splint for a while though.

By turquoise — On Oct 23, 2013

@burcidi-- Is your wrist also swollen and tender? Can you see any physical deformity in your wrist? If so, it's probably dislocated. Don't move it and apply ice immediately. Keep your hand above the level of your heart to prevent further swelling. Finally, see a doctor right away so that it can be realigned and treated.

If you don't have swelling or deformity, it might just be a sprained wrist. The immediate treatment is same for that, apply ice and keep it immobilized.

Regardless of what it is, you need to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. I might be totally wrong and you could be as well, so see a medical professional.

By burcidi — On Oct 23, 2013

How do I know if I dislocated my wrist and what if it is dislocated, what is the first thing I should do?

I fell about an hour ago while playing basketball and landed on my wrist. It hurts a lot but I'm not sure if it's dislocated.

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