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Hand Sprain: Care Instructions


A hand sprain occurs when you stretch or tear a ligament in your hand. Ligaments are the tough tissues that connect one bone to another. Most hand sprains will heal with treatment you can do at home.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor gave you a splint or immobilizer, wear it as directed. This will help keep swelling down and help your hand heal.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for exercise and other activity.
  • For the first 2 days after your injury, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, or hot packs.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your hand for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to stop swelling. Try this every 1 to 2 hours for 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Keep your splint dry.
  • After 2 or 3 days, if your swelling is gone, put a heating pad (set on low) or a warm cloth on your hand. Some experts suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold treatments.
  • Prop up your hand on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Return to your usual level of activity slowly.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain is worse.
  • You have new or increased swelling in your hand.
  • You cannot move your hand.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your hand or fingers.
  • Your hand or fingers are cool or pale or change colour.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your hand or fingers are red.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your hand does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.