3 Ways to Help Treat a Wrist Injury From Weight Lifting

There's sometimes a price to pay for weightlifting. Wrist sprains and strains can test your dedication to the sport. Fortunately, most weightlifting injuries resolve quickly, and you have a few options for self-treatment.

Use proper form to help prevent wrist injury in the gym. (Image: Михаил Руденко/iStock/GettyImages)

Wrist Hurts When Lifting

According to a study published in 2017 by the Journal of Orthopaedics, strains and sprains account for 46.1 percent of all injuries from resistance training. These strains and sprains can be treated with a few simple interventions, which include protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and over-the-counter medications.

Weightlifting injuries most often occur from dropping weights. Other causes include lifting too much weight, fatigue and improper exercise execution. Chronic injuries can occur from overuse of your wrist muscles.

The PRICE of Initial Treatment

First-line treatment for wrist pain from lifting weights begins with PRICE, which is an acronym that represents a common set of initial treatment guidelines: Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.

After you sprain your wrist, plan to rest and protect the joint from further injury for up to 10 to 14 days with a light immobilization brace. Cover the wrist with a wet towel and apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes of no ice. You can repeat this cycle throughout the day, up to 48 hours post-injury.

Compression and Elevation

Prefabricated wrist splints, elastic bandages and sports tape all have their place. Initially, you can wrap an elastic bandage around your wrist and hand to provide compression. If the pain is still significant or waking you up at night, try a prefabricated wrist splint instead. While at rest, keep your wrist elevated above the level of your heart whenever possible to help reduce swelling and pain.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, can help treat pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen is an option for additional pain relief. You may need to take these medications several times a day. Follow the dosing instructions on the medication package and check with your doctor to be sure the medication is safe for you.

Preventing Wrist Injury

Although not all wrist injuries in the gym can be prevented, using proper form and lifting weights that are appropriate to your fitness level can help. Grip barbells tightly to prevent excess movement of your weights, which can further tax the structures in your wrist. Consult a trainer to assist you with your form while weightlifting.

Precautions and Warnings

Wrist injuries that are initially caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand or pain and swelling that last for more than a few days should be evaluated by a medical provider. Seek medical attention if your symptoms do not improve with home treatment, if you are unable to move your wrist or if your wrist appears deformed after injury.

Wrap compression bandages snugly but not too snugly. You don't want to cut off circulation. You should be able to slide a finger between the wrap and your skin. If your fingers feel cold, are tingling or turning blue, loosen the wrap.

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