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:


  • 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

  • keep your hands and wrists moving with gentle exercises to help ease pain and stiffness

  • 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


  • 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

A pharmacist can help with wrist pain

You can ask a pharmacist about:

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain in your wrist is 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
  • you have wrist pain and also feel unwell with a high temperature
  • your wrist is painful, warm, swollen and stiff

Immediate action required: Go to an urgent treatment centre or A&E if you:

  • have severe wrist 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
  • have lost the feeling in part or all of your hand

These might be signs of a broken wrist.

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 daily activities

Self-refer for treatment

If you have wrist pain, you might be able to refer yourself directly to services for help with your condition without seeing a GP.

To find out if there are any services in your area:

  • ask the reception staff at your GP surgery
  • check your GP surgery's website
  • contact your integrated care board (ICB) – find your local ICB
  • search online for NHS treatment for wrist pain near you

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.

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 thumb (near the wrist) 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, tingling, numbness or pins and needles in the fingers, hand or arm, a weak thumb or difficulty gripping Carpal tunnel syndrome
Smooth lump on top of the wrist, may be painful Ganglion cyst
Sudden, sharp wrist pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury Broken wrist

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.

Page last reviewed: 8 March 2022
Next review due: 8 March 2025